Born Jan. 12, 1944, Joe Frazier was the son of Rubin Frazier, a share cropper in Beaufort Country, South Carolina. Joe grew up watching boxing legends after his father purchased a black and white TV. Eventually Frazier found his way to Philadelphia where he soon became a bona-fide boxer. In 1961 he joined the Police Athletic League gym where he would meet the trainer that would turn him into one of the best boxers in all time, Yank Durham.
Frazier would soon become an international boxing super star. He won the gold medal at the 1964 Olympics, which would bring him enough attention to be funded by a small group of boxing fans. In 1965 he made his pro debut, and by 1970, he beat the heavyweight champion, Jimmy Ellis, in a mere five rounds, making Frazier the undisputed heavy weight champion of the world. But in 1971 he would finally meet a match for his skill, Muhammad Ali. On March 8th, the two fought in “The Fight of the Century”, at Madison Square Garden in New York, and after 15 grueling rounds, Frazier landed his signature left hook to end the match.
In 1974 the two met again at Madison Square Garden to decide who would get the chance to fight the current champ at the time, George Foreman. “Ali won the decision in Madison Square Garden, though Frazier and several sportswriters, including The New York Times’ Red Smith and Dave Anderson, thought he had won.” Ali would go on to retire for a year before coming out victorious against Joe Bugner. Joe Frazier was at the fight taunting Ali throughout and Ali learned that “People want to see me fight Joe Frazier.” Ali agreed. “When I retire I don’t want anybody around who people think could beat me.” Thus the date was set on October 1st, 1975, the two greatest boxing champs in the world would fight for one last time.
The weeks up to the event were very interesting. Ali declared that the fight would be “A killa and a thrilla and a chilla when he got the gorilla in Manila,” referring to the slurs that he said to Frazier before their very first fight. Both Frazier and Ali trained long and hard before the fight, but Ali had some bad practices just a week before the big fight. “I didn’t look good but I knew what I was doing, I don’t train like other men.” Ali had been paid $4.5 million, more than twice what Frazier received.
At 10:45 the fight would begin. The start was similar to many of the previous fights between the two legends. Ali opened up with a series of quick sharp punches to Frazier who just stood there and absorbed them, trying to tire Ali. In the fifth round the climate changed. Frazier began to back Ali into a corner pummeling him with punches to the body and the head, and Ali felt the pain. Ali wanted to quit after the pummeling he received in the earlier round, but his coach pushed him back in. “Angelo Dundee sent him out saying that this is the thing that separates the men from the boys.” Dundee was right, during the next three rounds Ali would punish Frazier, puffing up his cheeks and eyes, exhausting both men. Eddie Futch, much to Frazier’s dismay, prevented him from entering the final round, for fear of fatality. Thus Muhammad Ali became the undisputed victor, but instead of the usual taunting that would follow, Alisaid that the fight was, “the closest thing to dying,” he ever experienced.
Soon after the fight Ali would announce his retirement. “It’s too much work. Too painful. I might have a heart attack. I want everyone to know that I’m the greatest fighter of all time.” He retired with a 56-5-0 record and 37 knockouts. Frazier would go for one final fight before retiring after being knocked out during the fifth round to George Foreman. Five years later Frazier would come out of retirement, for one last fight against Floyd “Jumbo” Cummings, a draw, finishing his career with a 32-4-1 record and 27 knockouts, and passed away late last year from liver cancer on November 7th. “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Ali said in a short statement. “My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”