Obituary: Joe Frazier dies at 67 heavyweight champ had epic bouts with Muhammad Ali – Los Angeles Times

    joe frazier, the heavyweight boxing champion who in 1971 became the first fighter to defeat muhammad ali, then lost two epic rematches, including a vicious battle known as a “thrilla in manila”, died on monday from the night. he was 67 years old.

    smokin’ joe, as he was known, died in philadelphia, said his manager, leslie wolff. she had liver cancer.

    It was a golden age of heavyweight boxing in the 1970s, when fight fans packed massive arenas and increased the sport’s television ratings to see Ali and Frazier and George Foreman, Jerry Quarry and Ken norton.

    photos: joe frazier through the years

    in his 37 professional fights, frazier won 32 times (27 by knockout) and lost only four, with one draw. But in reality he never accepted his 1-2 record against Ali.

    “I hit him three times,” Frazier said many times over the years.

    They met for the first time on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York, with $2.5 million guaranteed for each fighter. Ali, then 31-0, had been stripped of his heavyweight titles when, like Cassius Clay, he refused to be drafted into the Army after being drafted for the Vietnam War. Frazier, with a record of 26-0, had captured the title of undisputed heavyweight champion in 1970 with a technical knockout of Jimmy Ellis.

    It was a brutal battle, described by many as the “fight of the century” and considered the best boxing fight of all time at any weight. When Frazier floored Ali in the 15th and final round and won on points, both received rave reviews for their performances. both also went immediately to the hospital.

    Before they could pair up again in the ring, Frazier defended his title four times, most notably on Jan. 22, 1973, against foreman in kingston, jamaica.

    Even the stocky, fearsome-looking Foreman, who was 4 inches taller, admitted that the thought of stepping into the ring with the Firemouth Frazier fighting scared him.

    “Every time he hit me,” Foreman said, “it scared five years off my life.”

    However, in the second round, Foreman caught Frazier with a right uppercut that sent the Philadelphia fighter to the canvas.

    Sitting ringside for the telecast of boxing was broadcaster howard cosell, now known internationally for his boisterous and opinionated broadcast style. When Frazier, the champion, jumped to the ground, Cosell stole the moment and the show with his dramatic call bellow:

    “down it gets more frazier! down goes frazier! down it gets more frazier!”

    It was like he was talking about a plane crash instead of a boxing match. Not only did he stick with Frazier, who got up too late to avoid being counted, but he’s a derisive call to this day among boxing fans for all those spectacular knockdowns.

    After Foreman stripped Frazier of his title, Frazier fought Ali twice more, losing in a more subdued battle in the outfield in 1974, when Ali kept Frazier away more effectively with grapple and clinch, and a year later, after ali got his title back by beating foreman in zaire (now the democratic republic of congo).

    It was for this third match, on Oct. On January 1, 1975, in Quezon City, Philippines, Ali predicted that he would have a good time with Frazier. In pre-fight promos for what was dubbed “Thrilla in Manila”, Ali called Frazier an “Uncle Tom” and a “bouncer” and repeatedly ridiculed him. The fight was anything but easy, and Ali later compared it to being “the closest thing to dying”. In the fourteenth round, having punched and taken too many punches to count, Frazier’s eyes were nearly swollen shut and he couldn’t see Ali’s punches, even though he had stopped and punched for several rounds through of his near blindness. .

    Finally, after round 14, his veteran trainer, Eddie Futch, threw in the towel to end the fight despite strong protests from Frazier.

    “sit down son,” futch said to frazier. “It’s over. Nobody will forget what you did here today.”

    frazier and ali had fought 41 rounds and had served up a boxing trilogy to go down in history.

    Frazier fought only two more times. In 1976, he lost to Foreman in a fifth-round knockout, announced his retirement, and then ended for good in 1981 after a 10-round draw with Floyd Cummings.

    joseph william frazier was born Jan. 12, 1944, in beaufort, s.c. He was the youngest of 12 surviving children of Rubin and Dolly Frazier and lived his early years on a farm, where his parents worked as sharecroppers.

    was inspired to think about being a boxer when someone told him he had the build of a young joe louis, and when he was 15, he moved north to philadelphia to stay with relatives and find work. one of his first jobs was in a slaughterhouse, where he pounded on hanging slabs of beef for exercise. Years later, Sylvester Stallone borrowed that scene for his “Rocky” movies.

    Frazier worked his way up the ranks at the local Philadelphia Golden Glove competition and lost only once as an amateur, to Buster Mathis, who knocked him out of the US Heavyweight spot. uu. olympic team for the 1964 summer games in tokyo. but mathis was injured before the games, frazier regained the spot and took home a gold medal.

    after his boxing career ended, frazier bought a gym in philadelphia, where he lived in his last years. Along the way, he sang with a group called The Knockouts and ran a clothing brand, restaurant, and limousine service. he dabbled in investments and real estate.

    tension between ali and frazier continued for decades. Frazier couldn’t get over the taunts and name-calling—Ali always said they were just fight-promotion hype—and when Frazier was interviewed shortly after Ali, shaking and weak from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, turned on the Torchlight to kick off the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, he said he wished Ali had “fallen into the fire.”

    But in an interview in Jet magazine later that year, and in a few interviews afterward, an aging Frazier said he no longer held a grudge.

    “it’s like we’re fighting the vietnam war,” he said. “We should meet and hug.”

    Frazier, who divorced his wife, Florence, is survived by 11 children. El’s son Marvis was a heavyweight contender in the 1980s, and El’s daughter Jacqui Frazier-Lyde fought and lost to Ali’s daughter Laila in 2001.

    photos: joe frazier through the years

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