Boxing legend Joe Frazier (32-4-1) passed away on Nov. 7, after a short battle with liver cancer. The former WBC/WBA heavyweight champion developed a name for himself around the world, thanks to his incredible knockout power and his entertaining battles with Muhammad Ali.
“Joe Frazier should be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time and a real man,” boxing promoter Bob Arum told the Associated Press after hearing the news. “He’s a guy that stood up for himself. He didn’t compromise and always gave 100 percent in the ring. There was never a fight in the ring where Joe didn’t give 100 percent.”
Frazier won a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics before turning pro in 1965. The first match between Frazier and Ali took place in 1971, with both boxers coming into the fight sporting undefeated records. “Smokin’ Joe” successfully defended his WBC and WBA heavyweight belt against Ali, handing the man who would go on to become the greatest in the history of the sport his first professional loss.
Joe Frazier successfully defended his WBC and WBA titles a few more times, before falling to George Foreman in 1973. He met up with Ali for the second time in 1974, and it was the GOAT that got the judges’ decision this time around.
Given the action packed nature of the first two fights between the two, a rubber match was clearly unavoidable. The two legends met in a packed Arena in the Philippines, and put up one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport. Unfortunately for Frazier, he wasn’t able to come out for the final round, due to problems with his vision (undoubtedly caused by the numerous jabs landed by his opponent), handing Ali the win.
Boxing has had its share of great punchers over the years, but only a few can even compare to “Smokin’ Joe.” Frazier might not have gotten the level of exposure Ali got over the years, but true boxing fans understand how much he did for the sport. It’s definitely a sad day for the boxing world, as another member of boxing’s greatest era passes away.