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Joe Frazier

Monumental Fights Against Ali And Foreman

After turning pro in 1965, Frazier earned the nickname "Smokin' Joe" for his rapid-fire delivery of punches and seeming ability to absorb the most ferocious blows of his opponents. With then-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali suspended for refusing to report for the military draft in 1967, a number of fighters scrambled to claim the title. Frazier won the New York State Heavyweight title against Buster Mathis on March 4, 1968 with a knockout punch in the eleventh round. He went on to defend his New York title six times before earning the chance to spar for the title sponsored by the World Boxing Association (WBA) two years later. After winning the WBA bout with a technical knockout against Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round on February 16, 1970, Frazier could claim the undisputed title of World Heavyweight Champion.

After Ali was reinstated to the sport, fans clamored for a match between the former and current title holders. The match took place on March 8, 1971 in Madison Square Garden in New York; both fighters were guaranteed a payout of $2.5 million. The bout went the entire fifteen rounds, with Frazier winning a unanimous decision by the judges at its conclusion. Although Frazier's victory was clear, Ali immediately claimed to have been robbed of the title and demanded a rematch. In addition to his poor sportsmanship, Ali made a number of humiliating remarks at Frazier's expense, including his infamous labeling of his opponent as an "Uncle Tom." Adding to Frazier's bitterness over the remark, media coverage of Ali often glamorized him as a principled rebel while Frazier was criticized as the establishment's boxer. The fact that Frazier had outboxed Ali in their first match was a secondary issue to many critics.

Frazier retained his title through two fights in 1972 before encountering George Foreman in a Kingston, Jamaica ring on January 22, 1973. Foreman battered Frazier so brutally that the bout had to be declared a technical knockout in the challenger's favor in just the second round. Frazier also encountered a setback in his second meeting with Ali in a non-title match in New York on January 28, 1974, where he lost in a twelve-round decision. After Ali took the world title from Foreman, he met Frazier in their third match for another title bout. Publicized as "The Thrilla in Manila," the match took place in the Philippines on September 30, 1975. The action continued over fourteen rounds with Frazier appearing to lead; after sustaining serious damage to his eyes, however, his coach, Eddie Futch, asked for the fight to be stopped. Ali retained his title in a technical knockout.

Awards and Accomplishments

1962 Philadelphia Golden Gloves novice heavyweight championship
1962-64 Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight championship
1964 Olympic Gold Medal in heavyweight boxing
1968 New York State heavyweight boxing title
1970 World Boxing Association heavyweight boxing title
1990 Induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame

Ghosts of Manila

In the thirteenth, Frazier began to flinch and wince from Ali's one-note slugging. Joe's punches seemed to have a gravity drag, and when they did land they brushed lazily against Ali. The champ sent Frazier's bloody mouthpiece flying seven rows into the audience, and nearly pulled the light switch on him with one chopping shot….

The fourteenth was the most savage round of the forty-one Ali and Frazier fought…. Nine straight right hands smashed into Joe's left eye, thirty or so in all during the round. When Joe's left side capsized to the right from the barrage, Ali moved it back into range for his eviscerating right with crisp left hooks, and at the round's end the referee guided Joe back to his corner….

"Sit down, son," Eddie [Futch, Frazier's coach] said. "It's over. No one will forget what you did here today."

With the only strength they had left, both fighters stumbled toward their dressing rooms to a continuous roar.

Source: Mark Kram, Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, HarperCollins, 2001.

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Famous Sports StarsBoxingJoe Frazier Biography - South Carolina Childhood, Chronology, Olympic Gold Medalist, Monumental Fights Against Ali And Foreman, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY FRAZIER: