Former heavyweight boxing champion "Smokin'" Joe Frazier died Monday night from liver cancer.
Frazier was truly one of the greatest boxers to enter a ring. He was nundersized for a heavyweight, but more than made up for it in heart and determination. Frazier's left hook was devastating and usually ended fights. He used his famous hook to defeat Muhammad Ali in 1971 in the "Fight of the Century".
He started his career as an amateur winning three straight Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves and only lost once in those three years. He made his Olympic debut at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics filling in for an injured Buster Mathis, the man that beat him for the final spot.
During the Olympics, Frazier knocked out his first two opponents with ease. Then came Soviet Vadim Yemelyanov, a towering 6-4, 230 pound man. Frazier would keep hitting him and knocking him down twice in the second, but as he kept hitting him he damaged his thumb. Frazier fought through the pain and the Soviet threw in the towel and Frazier clinched a spot in the Gold Medal fight. The Gold Medal fight ended up going the distance with Frazier taking a split decision.
Frazier's first professional fight was against Woody Goss in 1965 winning by TKO in the 1st. His career was taking off . Frazier beat his old amateur nemesis Buster Mathis to win his first belt, the NYSAC Heavyweight title. He would go on to defend the NYSAC belt six times.
His first of three memorable fights against Muhammad Ali came in 1971's "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden. Frazier was at the height of his boxing career facing a former champion coming back from a three year hiatus. Frazier lost the early rounds to Ali, but kept grinding away. They would go a number of rounds, but eventually Frazier knocked down Ali in the 15th round and would win by unanimous decision to retain the WBA and WBC belts and win The Ring belt. This fight would lead to the tumultuous relationship between the two for years.
However in 1973, Frazier fought George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica. Foreman towered over the undersized Frazier, but was an underdog. Foreman would knocked Frazier down six times before the referee stopped the fight as Frazier lost the WBA, WBC, and The Ring belts. He would never win another heavyweight belt.
The third and final fight against Muhammad Ali is arguably the greatest, "The Thrilla in Manila". It was sweltering in the Philippines and made it tougher for each fighter. Ali would use too much energy and began to tire due to the extreme heat and Frazier would turn up his offense. Frazier would win the middle rounds as his flurry of hooks was too much for Ali. Frazier eventually would tire in the tenth round and by the end of the 11th round, Ali had beaten Frazier's face so bad that his eyes had swollen shut and could only see through a tiny slit. Frazier's trainer stopped the fight in the 14th round due to Frazier essentially fighting blind as Ali won the Heavyweight title.
Frazier would only win one more time in his career, a 1o round fight against Floyd Cummings in 1981. After boxing, he trained his children to fight. His son, Marvis, would be the challenger for Larry Holmes' heavyweight title and his daughter, Jackie, would go on to fight Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali's daughter.
Frazier would have financial problems due to poor business investments and his own generosity. Frazier would blame himself for his financial woes.
Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer in September and would succumb to the illness a month later.
"Smokin'" Joe Frazier, though undersized as a heavyweight, was truly one of the greatest fighters to had ever stepped in the ring. He gave us exciting, exhilarating fights and his rivalry against Ali will never be matched un boxing again.
You will be sorely missed, "Smokin'" Joe.