Although boxing has had many glamorous periods in history, perhaps none was as talent-filled and entertaining as the 1960's and 70's as the sport delivered such superstar heavyweights as Ken Norton, Sonny Liston, Ernie Shavers, George Foreman and of course Muhammad Ali. Of all the great heavyweights of the time, perhaps the most overlooked is the mighty oak who was "Smokin'" Joe Frazier. The fact that history gives Joe Frazier second billing is no surprise as Joe has always been workmanlike in his boxing and never clamoring for the spotlight. It was his greatest rival, Muhammad Ali who craved the spotlight while Joe Frazier was steadily beating everyone in his path from the start of his career straight to the Heavyweight championship.
Joe Frazier started his career as an amateur and quickly became one of the best amateur boxers in the country. He was undefeated as an amateur with the exception of 1 challenger (Buster Mathis) who stood between him and the Olympics. When Mathis was forced to withdraw with an injury Frazier stepped in and stormed his way to the Gold Medal in the 1964 Olympics.
When Frazier turned pro in 1965 he continued his dominance, winning 19 fights in a row during his first two years. Frazier won fights with a punishing body attack and a blistering left hook. No flash and dash, just raw power made Frazier an almost unbeatable force. While the world watched Muhammad Ali battle the government instead of boxing opponents, Frazier continued to build his career; first by winning the New York Heavyweight Title in 1968, and then going on to win the Heavyweight Title in 1970.
Once Ali was granted his boxing license in 1970 the world waited to see the former champ Ali battle the current champion Frazier. They had their first of 3 classic fights in 1971, which resulted in Frazier knocking Ali down in the 14th round and going on to win the decision. It was one of the most punishing fights in history and both fighters have said that they had never had such a difficult opponent.
Frazier went on to surrender his title in 1973 to George Foreman and ultimately lost both rematches with Ali, but those fights as well as his fights with Foreman were some of the most entertaining fights in history. Muhammad Ali of course was the media darling who received all of the press, but it was Joe Frazier who represented the common working man in all of his fights and it was Frazier who continued to show that a hard-working black man from the south and transplanted to Philly could rise to the top of his sport and become champion of the world.
Joe Frazier feared no man. Smokin' Joe Frazier was one of the toughest men alive and he feared no one. He accepted every challenge in the ring and approached each fight as a true gladiator. Mano a mano, hand-to-hand combat, Joe took down his opponents in methodical fashion. "Kill the body and the head will die" is one of his famous quotes and gives an insight into his approach to fighting and life. Chip and chop away at the base of the biggest tree and eventually it will fall.
Joe Frazier epitomizes the struggle of the working man. No flash and dash, just straight blue-collar hard work. This is the description of Joe Frazier. While other boxers like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard were the darlings of media, Joe Frazier was never the man in the spotlight, but constantly working and winning. Even when he was the Heavyweight Champion of the world he was still the same blue collar tough guy. His style, as well as his morals and value systems, never changed.
When things turned south financially and physically for Joe Frazier (as they do for many of us), Joe still handled his situations with class. Joe's struggles represent the struggles of us all and his ability to endure seves to inspire us all to always just do the best you can.
Joe Frazier was and always be a winner.
Who is Joe Frazier? Here are some quotes that symbolize the boxer and the man:
“Life doesn't run away from nobody. Life runs at people.” - Joe Frazier
"Kill the body and the head will die" - Joe Frazier
“I want to hit him, step away and watch him hurt. I want his heart.” - Joe Frazier
“When I go out there, I have no pity on my brother. I'm out there to win.” - Joe Frazier
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