The untimely death of boxing legend Joe Frazier from cancer of the liver, is the end of an era for boxing and Smokin’ Joe as he was nicknamed will be sadly missed by fans, friends and family alike. Joe Frazier was born January 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina and was the son of Rubin and Dolly Frazier. He began boxing professionally in 1958 and was also a member of a rock and blues band Smokin’ Joe and the Knockouts. Joe was a shrewd businessman and the owner of Smokin Joe’s Corner restaurant, Joe Frazier & Sons Limousine Service and Joe Frazier’s Gymnasium.

Joe grew up on his family’s ten acre farm as the youngest of thirteen children. Another brother David died of diphtheria as a baby, making Joe the most youthful sibling of this large family. As was usual in those days, life consisted of hard work in the fields and discipline was strong. The children were expected to obey, their mother’s word was law and it was more by accident than anything else that Joe became a boxer. He started going to a gym simply to get in shape but then finding he had a talent, began fighting competitively until he became one of the best amateur heavyweights in the U.S. He was undefeated until he lost to Buster Mathis in the Olympic trials of 1964, but when Mathis suffered a hand injury Joe replaced him in Tokyo and returned home with a gold medal.

In 1965 he turned professional under the guidance of Yank Durham and won eleven matches clear, until the match with Argentinean Oscar Bonavena, in September 1966. Joe was knocked down twice in one round by this hard man, but rallied and won after a ten round contest and a unanimous decision. Most famous of all Joes fights were with Muhammad Ali. On March 8th at Madison Square Gardens, the two met before a sell out audience, the build up to this fight had never before been seen in boxing history and both fighters were paid the then record fee of two and a half million dollars! After fifteen gruelling rounds, Frazier finally landed one of the most famous left hooks in history and dropped Ali who stayed down to the count of four. At the end of the round all three judges agreed and Joe became the undisputed champion.

The two had a re-match on October 1st 1975 in the suffocating heat of Manila in the Philippines. The by then, ageing warriors slugged it out for fourteen rounds in the contest dubbed by Ali “The Thrilla in Manila.” Both boxers were exhausted and when Joes eyes were almost swollen closed, his corner stopped the fight and Ali won. He later described the bout as the nearest he had come to dying.

In September 2011, Joe Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer which progressed rapidly and spread throughout his body. He had to be admitted for hospice care in November and he died on the 7th. When Muhammad Ali heard of his death, he said that the world had lost a great champion and that he would always remember him with respect and admiration. Rest in peace, Smokin’ Joe!

Article : Claude Evans – UK Boxing store

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