November 8, 2011
boxing champion who in 1971 became the first fighter to defeat Muhammad Ali,
then lost two epic rematches including a ferocious battle known as the “Thrilla
in Manila,” died Monday night. He was 67.Smokin’ Joe, as he was known, died in Philadelphia, said his manager, Leslie Wolff. He had liver cancer.
It was a golden age of heavyweight boxing in the 1970s, when
fight fans filled massive arenas and boosted the sport’s television ratings to
watch the likes of Ali and Frazier and George Foreman,
Jerry Quarry and Ken Norton.
In his 37 professional fights,
Frazier won 32 times — 27 by knockout — and lost only four, with one draw. But
he never really accepted his 1-2 record against Ali.
“I whupped him three
times,” Frazier said many times over the years.
They met for the first
time on March 8, 1971, in New York’s Madison
Square Garden, with each fighter guaranteed $2.5 million. Ali, then 31-0,
had been stripped of his heavyweight titles when, as Cassius Clay, he refused to
be inducted into the military after being drafted for the Vietnam
War. Frazier, at 26-0, had captured the title of undisputed heavyweight
champion in 1970 with a technical knockout of Jimmy Ellis.
It was a
brutal battle, rated by many as the “fight of the century” and considered the
best boxing match of all time at any weight. When Frazier knocked Ali down in
the 15th and final round and won on points, both received rave reviews for their
performances. Both also went immediately to the hospital.
could be paired again in the ring, Frazier defended his title four times, most
notably on Jan. 22, 1973, against Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica.
burly, fearsome-looking Foreman, who was 4 inches taller, admitted that the
thought of getting into the ring with the brawling fireplug Frazier frightened
“Every time he swung at me,” Foreman said, “it scared five years out
of my life.”
Nevertheless, in the second round, Foreman caught Frazier
with a right uppercut that sent the fighter from Philadelphia to the
Sitting ringside for the boxing telecast was announcer Howard Cosell,
by now internationally known for his boisterous and opinionated broadcast style.
When Frazier, the champion, hit the deck, Cosell stole the moment and the show
with his dramatic bellowing of the call:
“DOWN GOES FRAZIER! DOWN GOES
FRAZIER! DOWN GOES FRAZIER!”
It was as if he was calling an airplane
crash rather than a boxing match. It not only stuck with Frazier, who got to his
feet too late to avoid being counted out, but it is a mocking call to this day
among boxing fans for all such spectacular knockdowns.
After Foreman took
Frazier’s title away, Frazier fought Ali twice more, losing in a more subdued
battle in the Garden in 1974, when Ali kept Frazier away more effectively with
holding and clinching, and a year later, after Ali had gotten his title back by
beating Foreman in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).
for this third match, on Oct. 1, 1975, in Quezon City, the Philippines, that Ali
predicted he would have an easy time with Frazier. In the pre-fight promotions
for what was dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila,” Ali called Frazier an “Uncle Tom”
and a “gorilla” and repeatedly ridiculed him. The fight was anything but easy,
and Ali later likened it to being “the closest thing to dying.” By the 14th
round, both having hit and been hit too many times to count, Frazier’s eyes were
nearly swollen shut and he couldn’t see Ali’s punches, even though he had stood
in and flailed away for several rounds right through his
Finally, after the 14th round, his veteran trainer, Eddie
Futch, over loud protests from Frazier, threw in the towel to end the
“Sit down, son,” Futch told Frazier. “It’s all over. Nobody will
ever forget what you did here today.”
ages.Frazier fought only two more times. In 1976, he lost to Foreman in
a fifth-round knockout, announced his retirement, then finished for good in 1981
after a 10-round draw with Floyd Cummings.
youngest of 12 surviving children of Rubin and Dolly Frazier and lived his early
life on a farm, where his parents worked as sharecroppers.He was
inspired to think about being a boxer when somebody told him he was built like a
young Joe Louis, and when
he was 15, he moved north to Philadelphia to stay with relatives and find work.
One of his first jobs was in a slaughterhouse, where he would pummel the hanging
slabs of beef for exercise. Years later, Sylvester
Stallone borrowed from that scene for his “Rocky” movies.
worked his way through the ranks of local Golden Gloves competition in
Philadelphia and lost only once as an amateur, to Buster Mathis, who beat him
out of the heavyweight spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 1964 Summer Games
in Tokyo. But Mathis was injured before the Games, Frazier won the spot back and
took home a gold medal.
After his boxing career ended, Frazier purchased
a gym in Philadelphia, where he lived in his later years. Along the way, he sang
with a group called the Knockouts and had a clothing brand, a restaurant and a
limousine service. He dabbled in investments and real estate.
between Ali and Frazier remained for decades. Frazier could not forget the
taunts and the insults — Ali always said they were nothing more than fight
promotion hype — and when Frazier was interviewed shortly after Ali, shaking and
feeble from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, lighted the torch to begin the
Olympics in Atlanta, he said he wished Ali had “fallen into the
But in an interview in Jet magazine later that year, and in some
subsequent interviews, an aging Frazier said he no longer held a
“It’s like we were fighting the Vietnam War,” he said. “We should
meet and hug.”
Frazier, who was divorced from his wife, Florence, is
survived by 11 children. His son Marvis was a heavyweight contender in the
1980s, and daughter Jacqui Frazier-Lyde fought and lost to Ali’s daughter Laila
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
165 6918959 59
his path of destiny = 59 = Defeating Muhammad Ali. Lost two epic rematches (including a ferocious battle known as the “Thrilla in
find out your own numerology at: