It's a sad day to be a sports fan as we learn of the death of a true sports and boxing legend in "Smokin" Joe Frazier. He died Monday night after a breif battle with liver cancer. Growing up, it was hard to acknowledge the true greatness of Joe Frazier because my dad was the biggest Muhammad Ali fan ever. He used to tell us of the classic boxing matches that Frazier and Ali had and still says that sports will never see another rivalry like it ever again in any sport. I bought my dad an autographed boxing glove from the infamous third fight from this rivalry, the "Thrilla in Manilla". It was one thing that it was autographed by his favorite boxer in Ali, but it meant much much more that it was also signed by Frazier. Some may say that they were the yin to each other's yang when it comes to the competitive spirit.
Everyone seemed to love Ali and he was the self proclaimed "Greatest of Al Time" because he had a great deal of charisma and people loved what he had to say. From a true boxing standpoint, Ali had great skills but just like any rivalry, you are not your best without that other person to push you to that limit and force the best out of you. That is what Frazier did. Joe Frazier was small in stature but packed a mean punch. He was a similar version of Rocky because unlike Ali, the general public could relate to him. Ali seemed like a movie star at points and almost larger than life. When the two met for the first time in Madison Square Garden,
Joe Frazier had to throw his greatest punch to knock down "The Greatest." A vicious left hook from Frazier put Ali on the canvas in the 15th round. Frazier became the first man to beat Ali in the "Fight of the Century" .
My father still talks about not only how shocking this event was, but it seemed to break his heart similar to how my brother and I felt three straight years after the NFC Championship games!!!! One thing was for sure, there was not only a new found respect for him from the fans, but no matter what Ali said in interviews and press conferences, he also had a new found respect for Joe Frazier. I always knew a great deal about Muhammad Ali because he is/was my dad's favorite athlete, but never knew nearly as much about Frazier until I got older and did some research about this great rivalry. I'm sure everyone has heard about the Thrilla in Manilla and this fight seemed to sum up this rivalry to the fullest.
The two fighters gave it all they had like they did the two fights prior, and nobody in the world was left disappointed. Frazier lost 2/3 fights to Ali in this epic rivalry but many people will say that Ali would not have had the success he did without being pushed and pursued by the ever determined Frazier. Joe Frazier was not the biggest fighter as the world saw in his fight against a much larger George Foreman who simply destroyed him, knocking him down six times in the first 2 rounds of their fight. One thing is for sure, no fighter ever had more heart than Smokin Joe! The ability to stand up for yourself no matter what people are saying about you is something to admire, and Joe Frazier had that special ability. Muhammad Ali would turn the media against Frazier during the times leading up to their fights calling him an "uncle Tom" and "your parents champ", but all Frazier did was take it like a man and do most of his talking in the ring.