Smokin' Joe Frazier - RIP

Great set of fights with Ali.


No shit? Damn.

This is an awesomely-written story:

And ends with this:

In his suite the next morning he talked quietly. “I heard somethin’ once,” he said. “When somebody asked a marathon runner what goes through his mind in the last mile or two, he said that you ask yourself why am I doin’ this. You get so tired. It takes so much out of you mentally. It changes you. It makes you go a little insane. I was thinkin’ that at the end. Why am I doin’ this? What am I doin’ here in against this beast of a man? It’s so painful. I must be crazy. I always bring out the best in the men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.”

— Alan

” ‘KILL THE BODY AND THE HEAD WILL DIE.’ This line appears in my notebook, for some reason. Perhaps some connection with Joe Frazier. Is he still alive? Still able to talk? I watched that fight in Seattle–horribly twisted about for seats down the aisle form the Governor. A very painful experience in every way, a proper end to the sixties: Tim Leary a prisoner or Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria, Bob Dylan clipping coupons in Greenwich Village, both Kennedys murdered by mutants, Owsley folding napkins on Terminal Island, and finally Cassius/Ali belted incredibly off his pedestal by a human hamburger, a man on the verge of death. Joe Frazier, like Nixon, had finally prevailed for reasons that people like me refused to understand–at least not out loud.”

Hunter Thompson

As an old fart I grew up in an era when the great heavyweight fights were usually shown on TV the weekend after they were on pay per view, usually at some local theater.

Most people hated Ali back then, because of his Vietnam stand and for changing his name, and for his arrogance. Joe Frazier was the guy who took over the title when Ali was gone (jail) and when Ali came out everyone waited for the inevitable Ali-Frazier fight. I don’t think anyone really gave Frazier a chance and yet he fought toe-to-toe with Ali and then knocked him down. Ali had bad mouthed Frazier and mis-treated him terribly in the media before the fight and there was no love lost between them.

Joe Frazier has to be listed among the top 5 heavyweight fighters of all time.

New York Times Obit

He played the villain in my pre-adolescent Muhammad Ali worship but I came to realize without Frazier, Ali wouldn’t have had that one great opponent to measure himself against.

In retrospect, he often was the more dignified of the two men, refusing to hold Ali to his pledge to crawl around the ring after Frazier broke his jaw in 1970, even though he hated Ali for the terrible things he said about Frazier and admitting to Ali’s greatness after the war in 1975

It is hard for people to understand how huge and important boxing was at one time. But between the corruption and the toll it takes on the boxers, I think it is best left as a niche sport.

No Respect

In tribute to Smokin’ Joe, I watched Ali-Frazier III last night. What an incredible fight. How Frazier stayed up, blind as a bat due to swollen eyes, while Ali was teeing off on him in the 13th and 14th rounds I’ll never know.

As for Frazier being a top-5, it could be argued that he is. But it’s easier to argue that he’s not.

Joe Louis
Rocky Marciano

Those 3 are guaranteed in the top 5. Foreman beat Frazier twice by KO, so he’s above Smokin’ Joe. Add in Jack Johnson, Mike Tyson, Dempsey, Lennox Lewis, Liston, Larry Holmes and a few others and there’s a lot of competition for that 5th spot. I’d have Joe no higher than 8th, personally.

I think Frazer would have easily handled all the fighters you mentioned except maybe Holmes in his prime, who was a lot like Ali and highly under rated. It is really hard to judge someone from that era against someone like a Dempsey or Johnson. If I remember right Dempsey wasn’t very big and most of them look slow compared to the Ali-Frazer-Holmes style fighters.
Tyson was over rated as his opposition sucked. And Foreman, a hard guy to figure. At his best he was devastating and he was big and quick for his size.

Leave Lewis off the list altogether, he was a very boring and timid fighter who got by on his tremendous size. Holmes never got a fair shake as he didn’t have worthy opponents.

Tyson had a very short peak and coasted on reputation for years. His record was comprised entirely of tomato cans.

Jack Johnson (could be higher based on his cultural significance, but I never saw him fight)
Holyfield - never liked him and think he cheated but give him his due.

lookit those fists! like boney hams at the end of his freakishly long arms!

Is that J.T. O’sullivan?

John L. Sullivan

Also, I forgot Sonny Liston - my James Ellroy cred is ruined.

As you said, it’s tough to compare guys across different eras. So I’m only really comparing them to their own era. Given today’s training techniques and the sheer size of some of the heavyweights today, I’m not sure a guy like Frazier would have a great chance against today’s heavyweights like the Klitschko brothers or Lennox Lewis (who is underrated). He’d be giving away 50 pounds and we saw what a big guy like Foreman did to Frazier.

My personal #4 and #5 are Foreman and Johnson. Johnson based on history and Foreman being the most devastating puncher the heavyweight division has ever seen. After that, it’s a race between Frazier (best left hook ever), Holmes (best jab ever), Dempsey, Liston (who was one of the best all-around fighters ever) and Lewis (another all-around fighter).

Tyson is the wildcard in these conversations. Tyson’s opposition wasn’t that great and he did have a short peak, but his peak may have been higher than anyone else. It’s not really his fault that the heavyweight division didn’t have great guys during his time. I wonder if he was pushed a bit more by other great heavies if he’d have not gone off the deep end as much. Also, let’s not belittle the accomplishments he did have. For example, Larry Holmes may have been aging, but Tyson was the only one to knock him out (and Holmes did fight about 20 more times after that KO, including Holyfield). Tyson isn’t in my top 5 because he didn’t sustain it, but if we’re talking peaks, Tyson may be #1. He just didn’t beat people, he destroyed them when Cus D’Amato was still alive.

Tyson used to have a hook he threw where he cocked his arm and turned his whole body rather than throw from his shoulder, given the way he was built and how fast he was in his late teens early 20’s it was the most devastating punch I’ve ever seen, and he threw them in flurries. That was one of the things that went away when Cus did.

But I suspect he was always a bully and a bit scared, he would have always had a tough time against bigger, good, fighters like Lewis and Holyfield.

Very true. He had excellent punching technique. But to go along with that, he had excellent (Frazier-like) head movement, a very underrated jab and quick hands to go along with that power. I think he’d have struggled against Ali or Foreman, but I think a prime Tyson cleans up both Holyfield and Lewis. Unfortunately, by the time he fought those guys in his career, he was nothing more than a shadow of his former self.

As for him being a bully, no doubt. As for him being scared, I don’t rightfully know. I don’t think he had the heart later in his career, but the young Tyson with Cus in his corner may be a different story.

Either way, I don’t think that Tyson had the heart Frazier demonstrated in Ali/Frazier III. Still, Futch did the right thing. I don’t think Frazier would have made it out of the 15th round alive.

RIP Smokin’ Joe

It’s amazing to watch old films from Ali/Frazier 1, 2, and 3.

According to one account I read, Ali had instructed his trainer to cut his gloves (i.e., that he wasn’t going to answer the bell) off right before Futch conceded. If that’s true, then Frazier would have actually won the fight if Futch would have simply argued with him a few moments more.