Muhammad Ali Praying For Joe Frazier - The Greatest One Of Many Well-Wishers

By James Slater: As all fight fans know, there was a time when heavyweight legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were the bitterest of enemies. The two had genuine, ever-growing dislike for one another starting ahead of their legendary 1971 “Fight of The Century.”

In that titanic battle, the first of three meetings between “The Butterfly” and “Smokin’” Joe, the two greats made history as the first two unbeaten heavyweight champions to enter the same ring. Ali, returning from his enforced exile, lost and the bitterness between the two escalated. By 1975, ahead of “The Thrilla in Manila,” arguably THE most brutal heavyweight title fight of the modern era, Ali was back on top of the world yet he still bristled at the thought of “dumb” Joe Frazier.

The two battered a good deal of the hate out of each other inside that burning ring in The Philippines - but not quite all of it. The two continued to trade insults long into retirement; with Frazier famously saying he “would have pushed him into the flames” that day when an ailing Ali carried the Olympic torch at the Atlanta games in 1996. As recently as the 2007 documentary “Thrilla in Manila,” Frazier was still bitter enough to remark upon how he was nothing short of satisfied at how his former adversary’s physical condition was in large part his doing. Without a doubt, Ali’s infamous “Uncle Tom” and “Gorilla” taunts had wedged a thorn deep into Joe’s side.

Today, however, things have changed a great deal. Both men are desperately ill: Ali with the Parkinson’s decease that has ravaged him for over thirty years now, Frazier with advanced liver cancer. And it seems as though the two have finally made peace.

It has been reported by how Joe, in a hospice for treatment, slept most of yesterday, largely unaware of the kind tributes that have been flooding in from all over the globe (reportedly, Joe, when he is awake, talks with those at his bedside). And his former enemy Ali made sure he sent his words of support as soon as he could.

“The news about Joe is hard to believe and even harder to accept,” Ali’s statement read. “Joe is a fighter and a champion, and I am praying he is fighting now. My family and I are keeping Joe and his family in our daily prayers. Joe has a lot of friends pulling for him, and I’m one of them.”

Among the other well-wishers are former heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes and Leon Spinks, as well as promoter Frank Warren. It may be Ali’s words that Joe will respond most enthusiastically to, though.

Has the genuine blood feud that demanded the attention of the entire sporting world at last ended, with the two now having nothing but respect and admiration for each other? It seems so. And the two kings can look forward to meeting again as friends; enjoying their fistic immortality together.

Article posted on 07.11.2011

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