At 67, Joe Frazier is gone. Liver Cancer he was diagnosed with two months ago metastasized and Frazier, who suffered all is life from various health problems, died under hospice care. A great Heavyweight champion, involved with Boxing till his last day, is gone.
Legends passing away always disturb us. Legends are supposed to live forever. And while Frazier had his flaws, and wasn’t the perfect fighter, his part in the great Heavyweight era always made his name one of the first to come up in any discussion of the Greatest Heavyweights.
A brawler, a bruiser from day 1. The inspiration to Rocky. An Olypmic Gold Medalist in Tokyo, only after he went to Japan to be an alternate. His big rival at the time, Buster Mathis, the only man to beat Frazier in Amateur fighting, was injured when the two put on a show for some military men, and Frazier won his place, and the gold.
And as a Heavyweight in professional fighting? He was defined by his style, his relative small stature, and his fights with Muhammad Ali. The first man to beat Ali, in what is named “The Fight of the Century”. Part of the ever more legendary “Thrilla in Manilla.” Ali probably hurt Frazier more with his words than his fists during those days, with his comments about Frazier becoming borderline evil.
Those days never left Frazier, or Ali, who had public feuds and reconciliations more than once over the years. Frazier always felt a little deprived of glory, of the media love. A beaten ego hurts a hell of a lot more than a broken bone or two, especially when you carry it around for so long.
But years go by, and Frazier, Somkin’ Joe, who kept training in Philadelphia, forgave Ali for whatever he felt was needed. Their relationship didn’t end in hatred. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration, My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones. Some say that both of them left the best of what they had as boxers in that ring in Manilla, 37 years ago.