The world was hit the the news on Monday night that former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier had lost his fight with liver cancer at the age of 67.
Because of their three classic bouts, Frazier is linked mainly to Muhammad Ali. But Smokin’ Joe was much more than Ali’s target of insults.
Joe Frazier was one of the greatest heavyweights to ever live.
A former Olympic gold medalist, Frazier ruled the heavyweight division from 1968 to 1973. When he defeated Ali in 1971’s “Fight of the Century”, Frazier rose to icon status.
He was the champ when being the champ made you one of the most popular athletes in the world.
And one of the baddest.
As a youngster, I remember my dad coming home from the Baltimore Civic Center with program in hand after watching the first Ali-Frazier fight on closed circuit television. He gave me the program and told me how amazing the event was.
I’ve been a boxing fan ever since.
Even in defeat, Joe Frazier helped provide historic sports moments. Frazier’s pummeling by George Foreman in 1973 led to Howard Cosell’s famous “Down goes Frazier!” call.
After retiring from the ring, Joe became a TV pitchman for beer and aftershave. Frazier was also a frequent guest of the Howard Stern Show where he would show off his singing chops.
I have been aware of Joe Frazier for 40 years and you think that guys like him will live forever.
Unfortunately, they don’t.
Rest in peace Smokin’ Joe.