“Smokin’ Joe” – Gone But Never Forgotten: Frazier At 77

Fighting with a busted thumb? No problem. Fighting at short notice? So what! Fighting the biggest fights of his career with only partial sight in one eye? “ I had a job to do.”

This is only a small portion of the legend that belongs to the great Joe Frazier; “Smokin’ Joe,” who would today have been celebrating his 77th birthday had cancer not taken him back in 2011. Frazier really was some fighter. That is an understatement. Frazier was a born fighter, he was a once-in-a-lifetime fighter. In fact, were it not for Muhammad Ali, Frazier might be looked at today as the greatest heavyweight champion of them all.

Joe was born into poverty, his fighting instincts seeing to it that he survived and made something of his life. Standing just over 5’11,” Frazier was told at a young age he would become “the next Joe Louis.” Frazier never fought a bit like Louis, yet the man from Beaufort – soon to help add to the fighting spirit and legendary status of the city of Philadelphia – forged ahead and made his own legend. Possessor of the finest left hook in the long history of the heavyweight division, Frazier also had unlimited stamina, unimaginable heart and desire, a tough-to-time bob and weave approach, and ferocious finishing ability. For a while, Frazier was the quintessential unstoppable force.

Fine men such as Oscar Bonavena (twice, the first time only just), Eddie Machen, Doug Jones, George Chuvalo, Buster Mathis (whose place in the ’64 Olympic final Joe took), Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis, were beaten before Joe took on Ali in the titanic Fight Of The Century in March of 1971. Frazier won, over fifteen brutal rounds, and he was, finally, THE heavyweight king of the world. Joe had peaked. He was the best fighter on the planet – this at a time when legends like Jose Napoles, Bob Foster (the victim of a nasty Frazier KO) and Carlos Monzon were plying their trade.

Frazier was then ran over by a young George Foreman, his career seemingly in tatters. Yet Joe, fighting high blood pressure, ever deteriorating sight in his left eye, and pleas from his family to retire, fought on. What Frazier managed to achieve came purely from his soul. His tools worn down, Joe fought on heart and hate alone as he pushed bitter rival Ali to the brink in Manila. “Sit down, Joe. No-one will ever forget what you did today,” Eddie Futch famously whispered into the ear of a barely conscious Frazier at the conclusion of that hellish 14th round.

Futch was right. Nobody who was there did forget. And they never will. Neither will any fight fans ever forget Joe Frazier.

Happy Birthday, Champ. 77 years.

14 thoughts on ““Smokin’ Joe” – Gone But Never Forgotten: Frazier At 77”

  1. I consider the Frazier/Ali 1 fight to be the greatest Heavyweight Title Fight of all time.
    Watch it from beginning to end and tell me there was ever a better heavyweight fight?
    The skill of both was incredible and Frazier won because he attacked the entire fight.
    It was incredible!

    • Agreed.
      The magnitude of the fight itself, The Fight of the Century alone tells the story…Joe took his O… and finished the fight with the exclamation…

  2. If you really want to see something cool and great, go to YOUTUBE , plug in THIS IS YOUR LIFE MUHAMMED ALI and catch the last (probably 10 minutes) when Joe Frazier comes out….After watching it, if you don’t have a smile on your face or a tear in your eye, you’re not human

  3. Joe Frazier was never in a boring fight. He was the quintessential “slugger,” but there was more to his game. At the time he fought Ali the first time, Ali found him incredibly hard to hit solidly. He unpacked these skills again in the second Foreman fight, boxing and moving smartly for 5 rounds but his reflexes and bottomless bucket of endurance were depleted enough so that Foreman eventually was able to hurt him and he reverted to his old self, foregoing his in/out and side to side tactics allowing Foreman to finish him. Was Frazier the same fighter after Ali/Frazier I? Hard to say, but the Thrilla in Manila leaves no doubt that he was still an extraordinarily great fighter.

  4. It’s a cliche to say that they don’t make em like that any more but in Joes case it’s true. They also didn’t make many like him before either. Great fighter and a great man was Joe Frazier.

  5. I love the story of when he fought Bob Foster, one of the greatest LHWs of all time. A wrecking machine in his own right. Frazier leveled him. Foster woke up in the dressing room and asked how the fight went. When his people told him that he got KTFO he said “on national television??!” That left hook was like Thor’s hammer

  6. The left hook Frazier dropped Ali with in the 15th was one of if not the best I have ever seen at the weight. The Fact Ali got up was remarkable, and then he took a load more punishing hooks, what a chin. Joe wanted to prove to the world that he was the best that night, and he did.

  7. “Smokin” Joe Frazier was an absolute class person with humility, integrity and honor. He was beautiful to watch. A well oiled machine that came to fight every time out. His bobbing and weaving coupled with that left hook that he threw over and over never got old. He had only one way to fight and that was to come forward and attacking the body and head. Joe had an iron chin as well, and he never lost his focus and mission in the ring. There was no bigger heart than “Smokin” Joe’s. This courageous classy warrior was the definition of a fighter. His small stature never deterred him from beating the much bigger guys. He persevered with such pride, honor and strength. I recall watching George Foreman hitting him, lifting off the ground and punishing Joe, but Joe kept trying to fight. He would not give in. He had no quit in him. This was one courageous fighter that also made a tremendous positive impact outside the ring. “Smokin” Joe Frazier will always be an example to current and future fighters. He is the epitome of class. RIP Champ!

  8. Didn’t that video bring a tear. Such a shame that Joe did carry the “hurt” for all those days. Although that could’ve been sorted a long long time ago and, I can’t understand why Ali didn’t fix that situation many times over. For Ali to call Joe an Uncle Tom and then have his own people judge him differently because of it is more than wrong. A dagger through the heart for eternity. A white farmer was going to hang Joe’s daddy because he dared to stop him hitting his wife, “I’ll be back tonight to sort this”. So off to Philadelphia instantly. That just bugs me with Ali.

  9. Excellent tribute Mr Slater to a true heavyweight ATG.The Joe Frazier of 1968-71 was one of the greatest heavyweights in history.
    Joe Frazier was the ultimate warrior.

  10. Joe used to frequent a club in Philly where I spent considerable time back in the early 80’s. I mentioned to a mutual friend that Joe wasn’t as tall as officially listed. My friend suggested I take a swing at Joe and see if those missing 2-3 inches make a difference. No thanks. But Joe was always friendly, always a gentleman, and had time to talk with anyone that approached him.

  11. Smokin’ Joe was one of the best Heavyweights of all time…
    I’m sure he would have found a way to compete with today’s modern-day pansies.
    I remember reading how Sly Stallone wanted to feel what it was like to be hit by a heavyweight, so Joe obliged and nearly knocked the stuffing out of Sly… (1976)
    Fair play to Sly… he’s stuck with boxing all these years

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