In death, Smokin’ Joe still linked to Ali
Posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 7:02 pm
By DAN GELSTON
and TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Writers
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Frazier had to throw his greatest punch to knock down “The Greatest.”
A vicious left hook from Frazier put Muhammad Ali on the canvas in the 15th round in March 1971 when he became the first man to beat him in the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden.
“That was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life,” Frazier said.
It was his biggest night, one that would never come again.
The relentless, undersized heavyweight ruled the division as champion, then spent a lifetime trying to fight his way out of Ali’s shadow.
Frazier, who died Monday night after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67, will forever be associated with Ali. No one in boxing would ever dream of anointing Ali as The Greatest unless he, too, was linked to Smokin’ Joe.
“I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Ali said in a statement. “My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
They fought three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Thrilla in Manila in the Philippines. They went 41 rounds together. Neither gave an inch and both gave it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights.
Ali was as merciless with Frazier out of the ring as he was inside it. He called him a gorilla, and mocked him as an Uncle Tom. But he respected him as a fighter, especially after Frazier won a decision to defend his heavyweight title against the then-unbeaten Ali in a fight that was so big Frank Sinatra was shooting pictures at ringside.
Published in The Messenger 11.8.11