Smokin Joe Frazier was born in 1944 and became Olympic boxing champion in 1964.
With the World Boxing title left vacant due to Muhammad Ali’s ban, caused by his refusal to be drafted during the USA’s war in Vietnam (later overturned due to public pressure), Joe Frazier fought Jimmy Ellis on February 16th 1970 in Madison Square Garden to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
The subsequent lifting of the ban on Ali saw the pair fight at Madison Square Garden on March 8th 1971, though this was felt to be too soon a return to top flight boxing for Ali who was floored on a couple of occasions by Frazier, with Joe winning a unanimous points decision. This was billed as the Fight of the Century.
Frazier lost his title to the giant George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica on January 22nd, 1973. Although nearly 2 years after the Ali fight, a generous Foreman later claimed that the fight with Ali had taken a lot out of Joe, and he caught him on a slight downward spiral, and at his prime he could never have beaten him. Foreman had Frazier on the canvas several times throughout the bout to win the title, only to lose it to a resurgent Ali during the famous Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire.
On January 28th 1974, Frazier faced Ali a second time in New York City losing on points in what was generally regarded as an anti climax
It was the second in what became known as a famous treble of boxing matches between the pair, the last being the infamous Thrilla in Manila on 1st October 1975.
Deemed by many to be the most brutal heavyweight fight ever, Frazier was stopped by his trainer in the 14th, although Ali himself described the fight as “the closest thing to dying I know of”
This period of time was known as the Golden Era of Boxing due to the calibre of fighters, understood to be far higher than today. The public image of the rivalry between Ali and Frazier was one of bitter resentment due to Ali’s taunting of Frazier as an “Uncle Tom” due to his own involvement in various Black Movements and Nation of Islam, where Frazier’s team (not that different to Ali’s) was mainly white and he had no strong leanings towards any particular movement.
While there is little doubt Frazier was enraged about the taunt, and reportedly never forgave Ali despite an apology years later, the private relationship was in fact a lot closer, and Ali was building up the rivalry to sell tickets. During his ban, Frazier gave money to Ali to see him through, and after defeating Frazier in one fight, noticing Joe’s son Marvis crying in the corner at a press conference, Ali ignored the press, approached the boy and told him “Dont cry, your father is a great man”
Despite a brief return, Joe Frazier retired from boxing in 1976 and set up a boxing gym in Philadelphia. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. His daughter Jacqui began a boxing career in 2000, following in the footsteps of her father and brother. On June 8th 2001 she fought in the first ever Pay Per View Boxing card in women’s boxing when she fought Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad.
Jacqui lost in the 8th round but went on to be WIBA champion on December 14th 2001.
Joe maintained his gym in Philadelphia and pursued many activities, assisting boxing gyms around the world and encouraging young boxers
Described as the “bravest boxer he had ever witnessed” by George Foreman, Joe Frazier died on 7th November 2011 from liver cancer, and in the words of Muhammad Ali, “We have lost a great champion”.
RIP Joe Frazier & thanks for the memories
Here is our own little tribute to him by way of appreciation. Our condolences to his friends and family.