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Smokin' Joe Is No More

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Boxing great and all around good guy Joe Frazier has passed away, a victim of liver cancer.  Most famous for his epic bouts with Muhammad Ali, Frazier was the ultimate self-made boxer, a guy who didn't have the blinding talent of Ali, but who never gave up, never gave in and never, ever quit.

His fights with Ali really defined the sport.  In the last fight, the Thrilla from Manila, Ali taunted Frazier, calling him names like ugly gorilla, assuming he was significantly past his prime.  Frazier, not able to compete with Ali as a vocal bon vivant, was livid and swore he'd make Ali pay.  He lost the fight, but he certainly won Ali's respect.  At one point late in the fight, they clinched and Ali said "they told me you were washed up, Joe."

Frazier's response? "They told you wrong, pretty boy."

That was as good as any line Ali ever delivered. After the fight, he said that Frazier brought him as close to death as he had ever been.

Decades later, they are still the high points of America's tragic theater.

Ali of course, has suffered terribly since his career ended, a victim of Parkinson's.  You have to wonder if a boxing career as brutal as Frazier's caused any liver damage, but who could ever know.

People have moved on from boxing to a large extent, thanks in no small part to Don King's machinations, but when they do cast a look back, they usually think first of Frazier-Ali, and that rivalry was largely fueled by Smokin' Joe's incredible courage.  We'll not see the likes of him again any time soon.

Joe Frazier, dead at 67.

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