“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier was known for many things. His fighting style consisted of bobbing, weaving, grunting and most importantly, being the aggressor. His signature punch was a powerful left hook that made spectators cringe once delivered. But what Frazier may be most known for is being the first fighter to defeat “The Greatest”. On March 8, 1971, Frazier’s famous left hook put Muhammad Ali to the canvas in the 15th round. Frazier would win what was called the “Fight of the Year” by way of a unanimous decision in front of a star-studded Madison Square Garden crowd. He would go on to lose two more fights to Ali including the last bout famously labeled as “The Thriller in Manila”!
Frazier died on November 7, 2011 from a short battle with liver cancer.
Born in Beaufort South Carolina, on January 12, 1944, Joe Frazier won Amateur championships from 1962-1964. During that time span, he would lose only to Buster Mathis. Buster Mathis kept Frazier from making it to the 64′ Olympics in Tokyo. Frazier lost to Mathis during the Olympic Trials in a controversial decision. He would go to Tokyo as an alternate. Frazier would get his big break. Mathis supposedly had injured his hand during a sparring match against Frazier. Frazier took his spot and the rest was history. He would blow by the first two fights by knockouts. Although he won in the semi-final match , he would injure his left hand. Frazier won the gold medal round by way of a majority decision.
Frazier would begin his professional career in 1965 with a technical knockout victory over Woody Goss. He would knock out three more opponents that year. In 1967, Frazier boycotted the heavyweight elimination tournament. The tournament was for Muhammad Ali’s belt, which he was stripped of due to refusal to serve in the military. In the midst of Ali’s title removal, Frazier had won all of his six bouts.
In 1970, Frazier would fight Jimmy Ellis for his WBA Heavyweight championship. Ellis won the elimination tournament to capture Ali’s vacant belt. Frazier would win the bout via technical knockout as Ellis’ trainer denied his return in the fifth round, after being floored by Frazier twice in the fourth. This was the first time that Ellis touched the canvas in his career. Frazier would successfully defend his title four times including the epic win over Ali before falling victim of second round knockout to George Foreman on January 22, 1973. In that bout, Foreman knocked Frazier down six times before referee Arthur Mercante stopped the action. Frazier would never win another championship again.
Frazier will be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time. He was the quiet champion that handled his business in the ring. He still stood up for himself and never changed from what he believed in. However, he will forever be linked to Ali. His nemesis, verbally attacked his character and became a beloved icon in the eyes of mainstream media, while he became somewhat of a forgotten figure. But as you look at their careers, Ali wouldn’t be the legend he is if it weren’t for Ole’ “Smokin’ Joe”.
By Keith s Madyun