As the tributes pour in from around the world for legendary former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, who has died aged 67 from liver cancer, it is reassuring to know that Smokin’ Joe has a special place in history that will never ever be forgotten.
Frazier’s memory will live on forever, not only because he was one of the greatest fighters the world has ever seen. His epic rivalry with the great Muhammad Ali, the other half of boxing’s most famous double act, is the stuff of legend.
Frazier, who won Olympic gold in 1964, became world champion in 1970 after Ali had been stripped of his titles in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. When Ali tried to reclaim his belts, Frazier beat him, winning the much-hyped ‘Fight of The Century’ in 1971.
“The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones,” said 69-year-old Ali, who narrowly beat Frazier in their two subsequent fights ending with ‘The Thrilla in Manilla’ which Frazier always contested he should have won on points.
“He was definitely one of boxing’s greats. He was legendary,” said Lennox Lewis of Frazier. “Without him, other boxing heroes wouldn’t be great either because they really tested his talent against him. In a room filled of great men, he is definitely one of them.”
- Born 12 January 1944, Beaufort, South Carolina
- Total fights 37 – 32 wins (27KOs), 4 losses, 1 draw
- Won gold for USA at 1964 Tokyo Olympics
- Won NYSAC version of world title with victory over Buster Mathis in 1968
- Won WBA and WBC versions of world title with victory over Jimmy Ellis in 1970
- Last world title fight in 1975 against Muhammad Ali
- Retired in 1976 and made a comeback in 1981, fighting just once, before retiring for good
- Dies 7 November 2011 after suffering from liver cancer