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Joe Frazier: Emblematic of an Imperishable Era
November 11, 2011 Boxing News

The Era That Died With Smokin’ Joe

“A very painful experience in every way,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “a proper end to the Sixties . . . [with] Cassius/Ali belted incredibly off his pedestal by a human hamburger, a man on the verge of death. Joe Frazier, like Nixon, had finally prevailed for reasons that people like me refused to understand — at least not out loud.”

TIME Magazine Ali Frazier

The Ali-Frazier Trilogy was as much a cultural phenomenon as a sporting event. Photo courtesy of TIME Magazine.

1971’s first bout between the Vietnam War‘s most high profile conscientious objector & the son of a South Carolina sharecropper virulently morphed into more than a mere sporting contest (as we understand the concept today); it was, in many ways a histo-cultural crowning point. The times they were a changing; & though it took until  30 April 1975 for hostilities to officially draw to a close, the public tide against direct US involvement in Indo-China had turned sufficiently to allow this bout to take place at a moment in American & world history that was as much a new beginning as a period mark on the age that had immediately preceded it.

Joe Frazier had played a role in facilitating the showdown by petitioning a pre-Watergate President Richard Nixon to have Mohammed Ali’s right to fight professionally reinstated. Frazier went so far as boycotting the 1967 WBA heavyweight elimination tournament to find a successor to Muhammad Ali, after the champion had been stripped of the title. He, or his advisers, were intuitively aware of the sweeping shift in public sentiment that was by then well underway.

Old Blue Eyes

Frank Sinatra was ringside at Ali vs Frazier I in 1971 – as a LIFE photographer.

While Muhammad Ali is universally perceived as the greatest heavyweight of the greatest era for the sport’s marquee division, Eddie Futch (the trainer who called a halt to the timeless trilogy before a potentially fatal 45th round could take place) oversaw upsets of Ali by both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. The levels of charisma, enigmatic star power of & the consequential public infatuation with this class of heavyweight champions stands head & shoulders alone in the annals of boxing history.

Joe Frazier had never before seen a film replay of the “Thrilla in Manila” fight until some 34 years after the final chapter of the epic trilogy with Ali when he finally did so with filmmakers of an HBO commemorative film on the event. Ali called the third fight “the closest thing to dying,” whilst Frazier simply noted “We were dead. Both of us.”

“Don’t you know I’m God?” Ali had barked, during the 1971 Fight of the Century at New York’s Madison Square Garden that culturally, socially & politically punctuated much of the early 1970s & remains a seemingly unobtainable high point for boxing’s premier division. Smokin’ Joe – who similarly timed his verbal counter-assault with his fistic one, retorted with a bevvy (30 before the one that dropped Ali) of mean left hooks & “Well, God, you gonna get whupped tonight!”

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, promoting Pacquiao-Marquez III and who co-promoted the “Thrilla in Manila” back in 1975 says “We have organized a montage of Joe’s life which will be shown in the arena before the (Pacquiao-Marquez III) fight.” “We will sound the bell in remembrance of Joe,” Arum added.

Marquez Pacquiao Joe Frazier

Pacquiao vs Marquez III will pay homage to the life of a fallen protagonist of another of the sport's history three fight epics.

The final word, though, goes to the great man himself; “Regardless of who you are, you have to think one way, and the right way, to be accepted by the man above,” … “He calls the shots.” Joe Frazier.

Matt Hamilton, for ESNewsReporting.

Matt Hamilton Boxing

Matt Hamilton on Boxing @ ESNewsReporting

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"1" Comment
  1. Good Stuff the first fight between Ali and Frazier was the biggest fight of my life time 53 yrs old i was 13 when they faught the 1st time. Only 2 others were as big Jefferies vs Johnson and ofcourse Louis vs Schmelling 11 when the world was on the brink of a world war with Louis repersenting good THE USA and Schmelling repersents bad Hitlers NAZI Germany. Joe Frazier was a blue collar fighter nothing fancy or pretty just plain grit and determination and thats the crowd who supported him both black and white.Boxing in America was a much bigger sport in the 60s and 70s than it is now you could ask almost anyone from a ten year old kid to your grandmother and everyone in between WHO IS THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD? and you got the correct answer The Heavyweight champion of the world held much more importance and prestige to the general populace than it does so today he was the most famous and best paid more than any other athletes in all of sports.It was the crown jewel of sport. And on March 8th 1971 Smoking Joe Frazier won The Fight of The Century over the unbeaten Ali not only one of 3 biggest fights of all time but arguably The biggest sporting event of all time and estimate 300mil people watched it live around the globe When i think of Frazier this is the fight i remember him in at his peak –he was not the same fighter afterwards!!! he was admitted to a hospital in philly after the fight in serious condition look it up! he left his best in the ring that night by the time Ali fought Frazier the 2nd and 3rd time he was not the same fighter then he was koed by George Foremen IMO politics got involved and twisted history and the thriller in Manilla overshadows Joes greatest triumph .Joe Frazier is a great among greats and truly a legend RIP SMOKING JOE

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