Tuesday, November 08, 2011

So long, Smokin' Joe

Great fighter, Smokin' Joe Frazier. Best heavyweight left hook of all time, says boxing historian & raconteur Bert Sugar.

Joe achieved boxing immortality through his three fights with Muhummad Ali, the first probably the most hyped event in sports history, the third one - Thrilla in Manila - one of the greatest, most titanic fights of all time. 14 rounds in tropical  heat. Ali, who was battering Frazier but couldn't take him out,  was about to quit when Frazier,  fighting blind by then, was made to quit by his corner man.

He was great fighter  & champion in his own right. Standing alone.

But even after that first fight, which Joe won, Ali retained top billing. It was always Ali-Frazier.  Joe probably could have accepted that, except Ali unfairly & cruelly mocked Frazier. Joe had supported Ali's stance on the draft & Vietnam,  over which  Ali's boxing license was illegally lifted. Joe didn't ask to become the proxy for white, anti-Ali,  pro-Vietnam Americans. Unlike some other boxers who fought Ali, Joe couldn't laugh off the insults. They were too personal. It was a betrayal. I liked Ali, but there were several instances where he was too damned mean, & how he treated Frazier was one of them.

Smokin' Joe never got over it. Who could blame him? 

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