RIP Smokin’ Joe Frazier
When I was a kid, boxing was a LARGE, vibrant, world-wide sport and not at all the sad pathetic sham it is today. It was epic. Heavyweight title matches were bigger than the NFL’s Super Bowl. And the heavyweights were ruled by Ali, Frazier, & Foreman. Ali and Smokin’ Joe were my heroes.
Frazier and Ali had a complicated history. Frazier helped out Ali financially when Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to fight in Vietnam. Frazier was the force that pushed for the first of their three beyond epic fights. The story goes Frazier held a massive grudge for Ali’s promotional showboating, verbal abuse, and for never recognizing his help.
But those fights…oh they were brutally glorious. Ali-Frazier I (The Fight of the Century) in Madison Square Garden was a pop culture event (Frank Sinatra shot photos of the fight for LIFE Magazine)…and Joe knocked down Ali and won the fight on a decision (and spent two weeks in the hospital recovering). Watch it here on YouTube.
In Ali-Frazier II, Ali was danced quickly landing punches in combos in the early rounds before trading punch for punch with Joe in the later rounds. ABC TV’s Howard Cosell hyped and called the fight. Ali won. Watch it here on YouTube.
That set up the utterly EPIC “Thilla In Manilla” where both fighters absolutely fought themselves to the verge of collapse. Watch it here on YouTube. After the 14th round, Frazier’s trainers worried about his health wouldn’t let him go out for the 15th round. Ali briefly celebrated his TKO and then actually collapsed in the ring.
Whoa. It still gets me all these years later.
It’s good to hear that Frazier and Ali reconciled before Joe died.
RIP Smokin’ Joe. RIP.