A tribute on Smokin’ Joe Frazier. The man, the Champion, and the legacy.

 
Philadelphia’s Smokin’ Joe Frazier having his finest hour, knocking down “The Greatest” Muhammed Ali in the 15th and final round of what was perhaps the biggest Heavyweight Championship fight in boxing history, Madison Square Garden, 1971, New York City. Frazier is now suffering severe illness and has been diagnosed with liver cancer. This has Frazier in a lot of people’s heart right now, worrying for his health.

In Smokin’ Joe’s best days, he would smoke into a roaring blaze.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier:

The public wants and has wanted great Heavyweight Champions like Joe Frazier for the past few years now.  In the 90s, 80s, and especially 70s, you had an incredible crop of American Heavyweights.  People will talk about Ali, Tyson, and Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes, but they don’t speak enough about the inspirational, tough as nails Joe Frazier.

Frazier was born in the south, Beaufort, South Carolina, and didn’t have it all good growing up.  Frazier was cut from a different cloth than some, a strong man.  A strong man who later moved to Philadelphia to pursue his career as a Heavyweight fighter.  Frazier wasn’t a talker, and didn’t hype himself up too much, he pretty much expressed his feelings in the ring.  Other fighters, like his great rival, Muhammed Ali, will talk a lot of talk along with walking the walk to get more butts in the seat, and  more cash coming in.

Frazier though seemed to not get into the mix of the hoopla, and promotional aspects of boxing. For Joe he firstly was looking to get Smokin’ and be the best fighter he could be, and that he was doing extremely well.  Winning the Gold Medal for the United States at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.  The gracious Gold Medal champion returned home to the states, and wasn’t given the kind of publicity you’d expect a sensational, knocking punching, Gold Medalist prospect to get.

So from there on, it looked like Joe was going to have to go down his journey the hard way, but come to think about it I think Frazier would say “Ain’t nothing wrong with me about that.”  For his tough upbringing and mental strength prepared him from a red carpet less entry into the professional ranks.

Joe Frazier, listed right around Six feet tall, was a two hundred and fifteen pound force. It wasn’t just his upbringing and mental strength that made him the Heavyweight Champion of the world. Joe Frazier was a strong man you didn’t typically wanna go blow for blow with.

Now, although Frazier’s demeanor greatly helped him in withstanding all adversities, mainly Muhammed Ali as a fighter, and his mental gymnastics.  It didn’t hurt that Frazier was built to be a bruiser to bruise for fifteen rounds non stop, and get more and more Smokin’ as the fight went on, that is if the fight was gonna go far.

Smokin’ has been used countless times, and it’s a great ring name, one of the best ever, but lets just say Left Hook Frazier would have been fine as well.  That left hook must be touched on some more, sheesh.  In all thirty seven bouts that Frazier fought in, including Foreman who had to have tasted some of what Joe had, pity must be bestowed upon them.  That left hook thrown all the way from Philly could crack like Willie Mays, and I’m sure it’s an experience that none of those men would like to go through again.

Frazier’s right hand wasn’t too fun either, as fighters would come in prepared to adjust strictly to Frazier’s left hand, only to be banged around by Frazier’s thudding right hand.  As for his body punching:  fogettaboutit.  Those stomach busting hooks were one of the main reasons Frazier gave Ali his first defeat.  he pounded his mid section all night long, and didn’t let Ali’s mind games, talking, or lying on the ropes lure him into head hunting.

Frazier was beating Muhammed Ali up in the second half of the fight.  Beating Ali up to the stomach to render Ali’s rope a dopes less effective, and then crushing Ali’s jaw with left hooks to finish up.  Ali as always being the great Champion he is, gave a memorable performance himself, particularly in the early rounds, floating at his best.

When Ali’s legs began to get heavy though, it became Frazier’s fight, and Frazier was ready to let Ali have it for all of the pre fight talk.  Ali would come out with dazzling hand speed and excite the crowd and score from time to time, but it wasn’t steady, and Frazier was on him like white on rice.  The climax happened in the fifteenth round when Frazier had knocked down the great Ali with one of the best left hooks thrown by man.  The signature punch for Frazier sealed the deal on a fight that won’t be forgotten any time soon, and forced every man to agree that for that night in New York City, Joe Frazier was the greatest Heavyweight in the world.

Joe Frazier in 1973, the Heavyweight Champion is on top of the world.

Joe truly did carry himself as a good man, and a good champion to look up to.

After beating Ali, Joe Frazier could have retired.  Several people in the boxing community spoke of his eye problems and the dangers that would lie in him continuing to fight.  But Joe Frazier is a fighter, and that drive he possesses had to have helped him accomplish the greatest feat a young Heavyweight fighter could dream of.

Not just that, but Ali was Ali, his moniker was and is “The Greatest” it even said it on his robe each time he walked into the ring.  So if Frazier was able to beat that guy, does he really have anything else to prove that there is a wealth of greatness in him? None the less, Frazier continued on, and was coming up against a man who punched even harder than Joe himself, and was much bigger, the goliath-like “Big” George Foreman.

Foreman was a Gold Medalist himself from Texas, and is probably the hardest punching Heavyweight Champion in the history of boxing.  Styles make fights, George Foreman was just the terrible formula for Joe Frazier, because Frazier will go forward against a brick wall and try to hook it down.  So he was going to do the same against George Foreman in Jamaica in 1973.  defending his Heavyweight Crown after beating the famed and celebrated Ali.  It was that night in Kingston that as Frazier’s son put it ” I found out my dad was mortal just like any other man.”  As Foreman knocked Frazier down six times to stop the bout in the second round to gain Frazier’s Heavyweight Championship.

Kingston Jamaica, 1973. Smokin’ Joe Frazier gets taken out in two rounds against the thunderous punching “Big” George Foreman for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Foreman’s knockout of Frazier made him look very vulnerable, and Muahmmed Ali avenged Frazier’s victory in early 1974.  Those two losses left Frazier with very little momentum, and many writers, and those in the boxing community said that Frazier couldn’t go anymore with the tops in the division.

In the meantime, Ali had shocked the world in Congo, knocking out Foreman in eight rounds with an explosive flurry that floored Big George and kept him down.  Ali’s rope a dope tactics had paid off better than they did with Frazier, as Frazier had more head movement and craft to his offensive aggression.  Where as Foreman could just punch, or rather release sledgehammers.  So with Frazier’s aggression it didn’t matter how well he was coming forward, he was going to be hit, and against Foreman, if you get caught clean, it’s over for any Heavyweight.  It doesn’t help that Joe was a slow starter too, but the style match up was just a nightmare anyways.

So from Ali’s perspective he had an easy rubber match on his hands, he could set the record straight convincingly and knock Frazier out.  Frazier signed for the bout and trained like the same man who beat Ali in 1971 at Madison Square Garden.  This time though it’d be in a obscure place for a Heavyweight Prizefight: In Manilla, the Philippines “The Thrilla in Manilla”.

The “Thrilla in Manilla.” Was billed for September 30th, 1975 in Manilla, The Philippines. Ali came into the fight a heavy favorite and many thought he’d even stop Joe Frazier this time. Frazier refused to come in downtrodden, and came in truly motivated, and was in very good shape.

THE THRILLA IN MANILLA:

If one thinks about it, you may come to the conclusion that the first fight between Ali and Frazier was a bigger fight.  Both men were younger, and undefeated.  But for some reason ask most on the street about “The Fight” (The 1971, first bout.) and they won’t be as familiar with that phrase or fight as they will be with “The Thrilla in Manilla.”

It’s because Joe Frazier shocked a majority of the public with his heart.  Ali in the early rounds was going for the knockout and at times it looked like he really had Frazier shaken up and ready to go, he even told one of his cornermen “My god, that guy can take a punch.”  For some reason, despite Frazier not being able to mount a great competition against Foreman, and Ali knocking Foreman out, Ali brought out the best in Frazier and his style with his intelligent aggression gave Ali fits when Ali wanted to coast, or just in general.

Ali liked to discourage fighters too in the first half of the fight and then put on a show sometimes in the second half.  But with Joe Frazier he couldn’t do that, because  Joe got Smokin as the tough got going.  Frazier’s defense would pick up, and his bobbing and weaving would gain more and more momentum along with his hooks, primarily the left, as the fight continued.  So for Ali, after punishing Frazier earlier on, wether he knew it or not, was going to get a beating that night as well.

In the second half Frazier got his right hand going to set up the left, and punished Ali on the ropes to the body and finished up with left hooks up top like he did in their first bout.  Frazier had tender eyes though, and they began to give out as the rounds progressed.  The fight was just about dead even, but Frazier’s vision was in danger.  Frazier had a trainer that really cared for him and his well being, and although he didn’t necessarily doubt that Joe Frazier could make it all fifteen rounds and maybe land something real big to get him the nod, Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch wasn’t worried about glory at that point.

he was worried about Joe Frazier, and his vision, and his future so he halted the bout, and genuinely incensed the proud Frazier in the opening moments of the fourteenth round.  As Ali would win the most famous trilogy in boxing history by going though what he called “The closet to death I’ve ever been.”  With Joe Frazier, and still held on to his Heavyweight Championship.

The real story though to much of the media, and the locals on hand who were rooting for the underdog, and fans worldwide were not just concerned with Ali’s victory, but more the fight itself and how incredible Joe Frazier performed when he was thought of as a dead man. that he wanted to fight with one eye or not.  Forget “Cut me, Mick.”  Thats something Hollywood doesn’t write, thats the heart of a true Champion.

It would be Joe’s last mark of greatness in the ring, but in boxing once you’ve won the Championship, you always get to keep it.  So Joe Frazier will always be the Heavyweight Champion of the World, or if he wants to be too humble about it, say I was once the baddest Heavyweight Champion in the world.  They don’t make em like Joe Frazier no more, or at least he’s not walking around as a man yet.  Fight fans love picking dream fights.  Frazier would probably be on the top 15 list about 3 or 4 times.  Frazier-Liston, Frazier-Tyson, Frazier-Marciano, Frazier-Holyfield.  Smokin’ Joe gave anyone their money’s worth the best he could, and he’ll always be ‘The Champ’.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier, now retired and looking snappy for a fighter always considered a blue collar guy. Is unfortunately in bad health, as he’s battling cancer of the liver. Many boxing fans hope for Joe’s safety.
 

JOE FRAZIER, THE MAN:

Now, this site doesn’t ever use the word “I”.  But I have to say, growing up in Las Vegas and being one of the best autograph go getters and always being at the fights during my pre teen and teenage years, I heard stories of which athletes were gracious or cold to fans seeking autographs or photos.  I say this with conviction, some guys have a notorious reputation for being cold and damn near impossible to receive an autograph from.

Wether it be because of the person’s decision to not wanna be bothered or major security measures.  Anyways, Joe Frazier had a universal reputation with serious autograph go getters  as being one of the nicest men to the fans any athlete had ever been.  Many claimed “Yeah, Frazier never turns me down, never turns down an autograph.”  A testament to his humility.  Joe Frazier wasn’t just the Heavyweight Champion of the World, and the man that first defeated “The Greatest” Muhammed Ali.  Joe Frazier was the peoples champion, a lot of fans loved Joe for his heart and aggression, moxy and most of all his demeanor:  A bad man, who you don’t wanna see in a dark alley by yourself, but a real gentlemen.  Seemingly carrying himself with kindness; until it was time to do business, than he was Smokin’ Joe.

All in all, sports are always great to watch, to talk about, and to appreciate.  But we do have some prima donnas, men who get paid millions upon millions and receive a lot of affection from fans and still don’t seem to have a humbleness about them, a gratefulness.  This is no criticism to such individuals, whatever makes you happy is understandable, people have different mindsets.  But again with Frazier, something you got to love is how he walked, his style, his expression in the way he fought, his demeanor, the man himself.  Joe Frazier was the champ man, and he’ll hurt ya with a left hook if he has too.

Frazier is undoubtedly one of the top 10 Heavyweight boxers of all time.  Young men my age and younger will watch his fights on ESPN Classic, or maybe a DVD, and get a glimpse at Frazier and they’ll give admiration and recognition to Smokin’ Joe just like I am right now.  From reliable resources it was found out that in the late 1960s when Muhammed Ali was stripped of his Heavyweight title and banned for over three years, Joe Frazier asked him to come into his limousine.  What ensued was Frazier comforting Ali, giving him some cash, and letting him know to contact him if he needed to.  A noble act from Frazier.

Ali would go on to hype up the fight and trash talk gracefully to generate more revenue once fighting with Frazier.  But Joe just didn’t appreciate it, and thought it unnecessary and over the top.  Now one could argue Ali is a guy with a sense of humor and a great promoting brain and was yapping to get more dough coming in.  However, such personal insults against Frazier got underneath the skin.  Hence why the two are to this day not friends.  Which is a shame considering millions of people loved what they combined to create in the squared circle over thirty years ago.

Frazier’s last straw perhaps is when Ali did make an attempt at a truce, and told Frazier’s son his father’s a great Champion and he respects him very much.  When Joe’s son came back to him, Joe responded “Why doesn’t he tell me that to my face if thats how he feels?”.  It’s possible that Joe was wiling to truce with Ali, the two men created the most memorable three bouts in boxing history.  It’s just that Joe Frazier is a proud man, and on those terms, maybe he felt the extension from Ali wasn’t sincere enough.

Besides signing autographs for anyone that’ll ask, the ole Champ has been residing in a Philadelphia boxing gym still to this day, until he’s gotten ill.  Living in the boxing gym, and still giving the speed bags and heavy bags hell.  There is a kind of boxing enthusiasts that loves a guy that doesn’t necessarily have the best feet or speed, or quick shots, but rather loves a guy who has to take a shot to give one, and those kinds of fans will always adore Joe Frazier, along with others.

The legend from humble beginnings in South Carolina that ventured to Philadelphia did it all:  He won the gold medal, he became the Heavyweight Champion of the World, and he gave Ali his first loss.  Along the whole way watching Joe, you’d have to miss him, who wouldn’t mind a Joe Frazier nowadays anybody?  Get better champ, God Bless and the site wishes you the best to you Joe and your family.

R.I.P. TO SMOKIN’ JOE FRAZIER, HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD.

JANUARY 12TH, 1944-NOVEMBER 7TH, 2011.

The retired Champ, Frazier receiving an award from a daily news company. As the gentlemen behind his right shoulder is holding Frazier’s Heavyweight Championship.
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2 responses to “A tribute on Smokin’ Joe Frazier. The man, the Champion, and the legacy.

  1. my dad and my mom use to watch boxing, I was never really a fan, actually I thought it was barbaric. however I remember Mr. Frazier, He was a household name back in the day,I think you did a great job on this tribute, If Mr.Frazier could see this I’m sure he would be proud.

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