The death of boxing marvel Joe Frazier, 67, sent shockwaves throughout the sporting world. A host of current and former boxing, NFL and NBA stars chimed in via Twitter and other social media sites to express their respect for the fallen former heavyweight who died of liver cancer during the late evening of Nov. 7 in the company of friends and family in his hometown of Philadelphia. In his prime, Frazier was a dominant heavyweight, a masterful technician and a power-packed puncher. His style, power and poise helped knock off perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, in 1971, the first defeat that Ali ever suffered. But despite his head-turning victory, Frazier could never turn heads the way his former adversary did.
Frazier’s fans, however, know what he was all about. Equipped with every tool a boxer could ask for, “Smokin’ Joe” emerged as one of the best fighters of his generation in the mid 1960s. Although Frazier’s contribution to boxing was a monument in itself, for the Black community, Frazier was a certified symbol that helped ease racial prejudice. Arriving during the height of the civil rights era in the mid ‘60s and lasting through the race-related movement of the early ‘70s, Frazier, along with Ali, gave the African-American population uniformed pioneers during the race’s own bout with universal respect. Though their rivalry spewed spiteful insults and side-taking, where would the Black boxing community be without the exploits of both Ali and Frazier?
Today, superstar boxers ink multi-million deals to fight on national television. But it was Frazier’s first bout with Ali that paved the way in 1971 with a then record $2.5 million personal payout for their 1971 “Fight of the Century,” the first meeting between the two heavyweights.
Upton Boxing Center trainer Mack Allison III told the AFRO that Frazier was “everything to the sport of boxing.”
“Frazier wrote the blue print for work in the ring. Some say Ali was the best, but I say Frazier was No. 1,” said Allison, an award winning martial artist and boxing trainer out of Baltimore City. “I modeled my boxing skills after Frazier. He will always be the best in my eyes. The sport of boxing has a lot of respect for him and he’ll definitely be missed.”