Boxing was real in the heavyweight division when you had the likes of Foreman Frazier, Cooper, Norton and Ali at their peak.
It is therefore sad that the second participant in a memorable bout with Muhammad Ali has passed away this year, Joe Frazier aged 67 of liver Cancer. Sir Henry Cooper passing away in May this year.
When Joe Frazier fought Muhammad Ali, the whole world stopped. It was a sporting event that could not be missed.
Their 1971 meeting billed, as the “Fight of the Century” was amazingly only shown in 750 locations across the USA and not on live television but still grossed $30 million. Most people tuned in on their radios for a blow-by-blow account of the fight.
There was somewhat a purity to the boxing game at that time, which is sadly long condemned to the memory.
Frazier came to boxing prominence at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when he won the heavyweight gold medal.
He was comparatively small; he was 5ft 10in and never weighed much more than 15st. But in the ring he looked like a colossus.
The first fight with Ali in 1971 when he defended the heavyweight championship successfully on points, is remembered for Frazier having knocked Ali down and broken his jaw in the 14th round.
The second bout is best forgotten, with Frazier losing on points in a unanimous decision.
Their third meeting, the ‘Thrilla In Manila’, saw Ali back as champion, having taken the title from Foreman. This was one of the most ferocious battles in boxing history and Ali was the victor when Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch pulled his man out at the end of the 15th round.
Afterwards Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee admitted that he had been close to doing the same for the champion. Ali said at the time that that he had hit Frazier with body shots that “would have brought down cities.”
Ali tarnished his reputation in the eyes of many in the build up to this fight calling an ‘Uncle Tom’ because of his white management team and described him as ugly and a “gorilla”.
Frazier did not take kindly to these remarks, Ali claiming he was only trying to sell tickets just as he did with many opponents. Whatever the feelings between the two Ali admitted yesterday that the world had lost a great champion.
Anyone who has seen footage of Smokin’ Joe will never forget his venomous left hooks and his constant movement making him difficult to hit. He left an indelible mark on the boxing landscape as well as many of his opponents.