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.
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