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Boxing Legend Joe Frazier 1944 – 2011
A champ all the way until the final round, former world heavyweight champion, boxing Hall of Famer, “Smokin'” Joe Frazier passed away on Monday evening after a battle with liver cancer. He was 67 years old.
Frazier was a star amateur fighter, winning the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves in 1962, 1963 and 1964. He also earned the gold medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In 1965, he turned professional and by 1967, he was in line for a title shot, but turned down a tournament chance to replace stripped champion Muhammad Ali, who had refused induction into the U.S. military. Some say that was the hallmark of a classy guy. That year, he defeated well-known battler George Chuvalo, and in 1968 he stopped Buster Mathis in 11 rounds.
Frazier and Ali had an epic rivalry that makes today’s worst media wars look tame in comparison. Indeed the two were adversaries, the likes boxing had not seen and still has not. Ali and Frazier would meet in 1971 and after weeks of Ali’s public trash talk , Frazier walked away from their first fight, winning a clear fifteen round decision at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971.
It was the pinnacle of his career. The two would meet twice more, with Ali winning a 1974 rematch at Madison Square Garden (UD-12), and then arguably the most grueling fight in boxing history in 1975, the famed “Thrilla in Manila.”
But Frazier’s career, which wasn’t long but was spectacular, also crossed the path of George Foreman, who knocked Frazier out twice in 1973 and 1976.
Frazier was a blue-collar, working class sort of fighter. He was the man who inspired much of Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar-winning 1976 film Rocky, and while he didn’t get much credit for that early on, he did later get a Rocky-brand action figure in his likeness.
He retired first in 1967, following his second loss to Foreman, but returned for an ill-advised one-off in 1981, drawing with Floyd Cummings. Joe Frazier was one of the world’s most popular and most admired fighters, and he was indeed a fighter, in and out of the ring. To find out more about liver cancer go here.