November 8, 2011


OBIT: Joe Frazier: Joe Frazier, who has died aged 67, was one of the great heavyweight boxers of his era, and will forever be remembered for his epic trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, the third of which -- the so-called "Thrilla in Manila" -- is widely regarded as the best fight of all time. (The Telegraph, 08 Nov 2011)

Early in the seventh round of the bout -- which took place in the Philippines on October 1 1975 - Ali and Frazier went into a clinch during a momentary lull in the breathtaking action. "They told me Joe Frazier was washed up," murmured Ali through bleeding lips. Frazier, his swollen eyes reduced to mere slits, grinned mirthlessly. "They lied", he replied -- delivering another monstrous hook to the champion's body.

Known as "Smokin Joe" because of his relentless all-action style, Frazier was not a great knockout artist but wore opponents down with his remorseless attacking approach. The most famous weapon in his arsenal was his feared left hook. It was one such blow which floored Ali in the final round of their first encounter - which itself had become known as "The Fight Of The Century" - at New York's Madison Square Garden on March 8 1971.

Frazier never forgave Ali for branding him "an Uncle Tom" in the build-up to these contests, nd remained convinced that his time spent in his great foe's shadow meant he never earned the respect he deserved.

Despite repeated attempts to heal their rift, Frazier's deep enmity towards Ali frequently resurfaced in later decades. After watching his great rival, by now stricken by a form of Parkinson's Disease, struggle to light the Olympic flame at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Frazier commented: "I think it was a slap in the face for boxing. He [Ali] was a draft dodger. If they'd asked me, hell, I'd have run all the way up there and lit the flame." To his obvious disappointment, Frazier had never been asked.

In 1978 Frazier appeared on a This Is Your Life tribute to Ali in which he referred to him as "a great guy". But Frazier's autobiography, published in 1996, revealed his true feelings: "People ask me if I feel bad for him," he wrote. "Fact is, I don't give a damn."

Hard as it may be for some younger folks to imagine, Joe Frazier was the good guy in their fight series, for exactly such reasons as the draft-dodging.

True confessions time: my one personal interaction with Mr. Frazier reflects poorly upon me.  Sophomore year at Colgate the radio station ran a trivia contest, one question of which involved all the salient facts from the first Ali-Frazier fight: year, location, trainers, etc.  Well, everyone knew Angelo Dundee had trained Ali, but we couldn't remember Frazier's.  So one of the guys in the room, who was from Philly, piped up with: his number's listed in the phone book.    So we called him.  Suffice it to say, Mr. Frazier didn't appreciate being woken at 11;30 on a Friday night by a bunch of drunk fraternity brothers who couldn't even remember his trainer's name.  Sorry, champ.

Posted by at November 8, 2011 6:20 PM

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