|Some thoughts on the passing of 'Smokin' Joe Frazier
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Nov 09, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: I was a Muhammad Ali kid. To me Ali was, and always be, the best pure
boxer I ever saw. He was loaded with natural talent and a gift for gab. I
preferred the sweet science to the savage slugger.
Then there was Joe Frazier.
Joe was quiet, shy, and humble. He would never ordain himself “The
Greatest of All Times.” No writer ever referred to him as the
“Louisville Lip” or “The Mouth That Roared.”
He was “Smokin” Joe Frazier and smoke is what he did in the ring. If
a fighter’s nickname empowers him, then “Smokin" Joe’s did just that.
He didn’t move, slip, and slide. He came forward like a live locomotive -
ducking and punching with grunts escaping his violent artistry. Joe
wouldn’t stop smoking, even when blinded or staggered.
There was never any quit - only more smoke.
Frazier was born in Beaufort, S.C. on Jan.12, 1944. He won an
Olympic gold medal in 1964 and turned professional a year later. His
championship ascent began in 1968 when he stopped amateur nemesis Buster
Mathis in the 11th round, thereby laying claim to the New York state
heavyweight title. Frazier defended the title five times, defeating such
names as Oscar Bonevena and Jerry Quarry.
He won the WBC and WBA heavyweight championship in 1970 when he
knocked out Jimmy Ellis with his signature punch, the left hook. He did
the same thing to light heavyweight champion Bob Foster nine months
later. Still lurking in the shadows was the controversial Muhammad Ali,
who had been stripped of his title for refusing induction into the
military during the Vietnam War. Ali had been banished from boxing for 3
½ years. Nevertheless, because he hadn’t lost his title in the ring,
many considered him the legitimate heavyweight champion.
I was twelve years old and living in Oklahoma when Ali and Frazier
engaged in what was simply called “The Fight.” In those days, the radio
provided updates every fifteen minutes on the biggest bouts. I was
confident that Ali would emerge victorious over the lesser-known
Frazier. My dad had warned me about Frazier, but I was unmoved. Nobody
could beat “The Greatest.”
The problem was Joe Frazier wasn’t a “nobody.” He was “Smokin” Joe
and that night at the historic Madison Square Garden in New York City,
he was on fire. Frazier won the fight and broke the heart of a
twelve-year-old boy in Oklahoma. I tried to make myself hate him after
that. He had defeated my idol so I had every right.
However, I couldn’t hate Joe Frazier. Frazier had class and dignity.
I could see it then. When he was in the hospital after the first Ali
fight I was worried about him. There was no Internet then to check on
his condition. I had to listen to the radio or read the newspaper.
When my dad told me a few days after the fight that Frazier was out of the hospital I was relieved.
I was fully in Frazier’s corner when he fought the hulking George
Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica. As Howard Cosell screamed “Down goes
Frazier,” I sat there with my mouth open.
Ali and Frazier got together again a few months later. I was
thrilled when Ali won the 12-round decision but my respect for Frazier
continued to grow. They fought one more time - the two legends in “The
Thrilla in Manilla.” I’ve watched the bout many times over the years (click the youtube provided video on this page to watch "The Thrilla in Manilla" fight now!) and
consider it perhaps the greatest fight in heavyweight history. Ali
started fast and Frazier, supposedly past his prime, and fighting for a
paycheck, started to smoke like the Frazier of 1971. The immense heat
took it’s toll on both fighters, as did their punches. Ali survived to
win by TKO in the 14th round. After the fight he said famously,” It was
the closet I’ve come to death.”
Frazier was to box a few more times and then retire. His career
record was 32-4 with 27 knockouts. He trained fighters and helped raise a
family. Over the next so many years, I would catch him on television
from time to time with his son Marvis.
Now as I sit here remembering Joe Frazier, I feel a deep sadness for
a family, and a fighter who never received the recognition that he
Frazier was a great fighter in his own right, a former heavyweight
champion, an Olympic gold medalist in 1964, and a member of high
standing of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
He was also a man.
Rest in peace Champion. Your likes will never be seen again
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