Joe Frazier on "Beyond the Glory"

15.09.05 - FSN’s one-hour documentary series BEYOND THE GLORY continues with a new episode profiling heavyweight boxing sensation Joe Frazier. In this episode, BTG explores the inspiring life of a young farm boy from South Carolina who overcame his greatest challenges to become one of the world’s legendary boxers. BTG: JOE FRAZIER airs Sept. 25 at 6:00 PM local..

Frazier, one of 11 siblings, was raised on a farm in Beaufort, South Carolina by two hard working parents. On Friday nights, the family took a break from their household responsibilities to watch the fights, a sport Frazier soon adopted as his own. He practiced on a homemade punching bag made of corn cobs, moss and bricks that he hung from a nearby tree.

At age 15, Frazier left home to pursue his dream, eventually settling in Philadelphia. He got a job in a slaughterhouse where he practiced his jabs on slabs of meat. Burning with determination, Frazier began training at a local Police Athletic League Gym.

As an amateur, ‘Smokin Joe’ beat all comers and won the Golden Gloves three years in a row. In 1964, he lost to Buster Mathis in the U.S. Olympic heavyweight trials but was retained as a sparring partner, and when Mathis hurt his hand during a training session, Frazier was on his way to Tokyo. Despite fracturing his thumb in the semi-finals, Frazier persevered through the finals, and took home the gold medal.

Frazier thought he had secured his future. He was wrong. Many figured he was too short to succeed in the pros. But veteran trainer Yank Durham saw things differently. Under his tutelage, Frazier learned how to close off the ring and tire opponents with shots to the body, all the better to set up his signature left hook. In 1967, when Muhammad Ali was banned from the ring, Frazier filled the void, and eventually captured the heavyweight crown.

But three years later, Ali was allowed back into the ring - setting up a clash between the two undefeated champs, which would become known as ‘The Fight of the Century.’ Despite verbal humiliation from Ali and anonymous death threats at home, Frazier proved indomitable. Before a sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York - and 300 million others around the world watching the fight on closed circuit TV - Frazier won the greatest fight of his career.

But in 1973, Frazier discovered he wasn’t indestructible after all. A title defense against up-and-coming heavyweight George Foreman ended in a two round knockout, marking the first loss of his professional career - and the end of his reign as a champion.

The following year, Ali and Frazier fought their first rematch, which ended in a controversial decision for Ali. But their third and final fight, ‘The Thrilla in Manila,’ may have been each fighter’s finest hour. Despite struggling with high blood pressure, arthritis and a cataract in his left eye, Frazier battled Ali for 14 rounds in the 107-degree heat. Rendered nearly sightless in the ring after Ali opened a cut above his good eye, Frazier’s last championship bout was mercifully ended by his trainer, Eddie Futch, just before the final round.

Refusing to give up, Frazier challenged Foreman a second time, secretly wearing a contact lens in his left eye, but with familiar results - several knockdowns and a sixth round KO. Smokin Joe’s career was over. He went on to enjoy success as a nightclub singer, trained several children and relatives in the sweet science - including his son Marvis, who challenged Larry Holmes for the heavyweight crown (and was knocked out in the first round) - and continues to guide neighborhood kids today at his gym in North Philadelphia, a second home for close to forty years.

That Frazier’s name will always be linked with Ali’s was, for Joe, a bittersweet fact of life. He maintained respect for his old adversary’s abilities in the ring but decades later still felt the lash from his verbal taunts. At the behest of mutual friends, Frazier and Ali recently reconciled, appearing together at the NBA All-Star game in Philadelphia. Gentle and generous with family and friends, Joe Frazier remains on the great, beloved legends in sports history.


Those interviewed in addition to Frazier include: son Marvis Frazier, daughters Natasha Holland, Weatta Collins and Renae Frazier-Lee, brother Thomas Frazier, sister Martha Rhodan, boxing commentators Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant, former agent Darren Prince, boxers George Foreman and Larry Holmes

Quotes from BTG: Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier (on being a kid with a dream): “I knew what I wanted. I knew that I wanted to put the gloves on and be champion of the world one day.”

Frazier (on the effect Ali had on his life): “He got in more than my head. He got in my mind, my heart, my body. I’d go to bed at night and I could see him – and we’d fight…I used to wake up the next morning, wet with sweat. I’d fight him all night long.”

Frazier (on beating Ali): “He said if I whipped him that night, he would get on his knees, crawl across the ring and say ‘You are the greatest.’ But he didn’t do that. I think he was trying to get to the hospital.”

Frazier (on his recent reconciliation with Ali): “We had some rugged years. But it’s all over, it’s done and gone. Now, I hope the best for him.”

George Foreman (on Frazier’s fighting style): “He gets stronger and stronger – and the people are beaten by exhaustion…And finally, he’s overcome you. He’s knocked you out.”

Jim Lampley (on Frazier vs. Ali): “We saw it as a battle between the shining knight, Muhammad Ali – who was a political martyr, who was the real champion, who was the one deserving of all the attention and the accolades – and this substitute.”

Marvis Frazier (on watching his dad lose to Foreman): “When my father fell the first time, I started laughing...Then my father fell about four or five more times. And then the reality hit me. He’s not playing. And that was the first time I realized that my dad was human. That he was just like any other man.”

Article posted on 15.09.2005

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