Back when boxing was great and it was all about the heavyweights, Joe Frazier was considered to be one of the best in the sport. This was back in the day when flyweights and bantamweights weren’t even considered a draw, and it was all about giants knocking each other back and forth until one bent to the other’s will. On January 12th, the great “Smoking Joe” Frazier was born, and went on to achieve a legacy in boxing that few have been able to match. He is also popular for having a handful of the greatest fights of the century.
The “Fight of the Century” came about when former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali returned from a forced layoff after refusing to register for the draft in 1967. During his time off, Joe Frazier was dominating the heavyweight division and firmly holding on to the title. So, when the time came for the resurgent Ali to lay claim to what used to be his, the hype surrounding the fight was justifiably electric. There was a record amount of money on the line of 2.5 million dollars, yet the two men involved cared more about the pride involved with holding the belt rather than pocketing the millions. Despite a crowd that was firmly behind Ali due to his domination in the media, Frazier fought a sound technical fight and won by unanimous decision.
But Muhammad Ali would get his revenge against Frazier not only in a 1974 win, but in the incredibly popular “Thrilla in Manila.” Frazier had already lost the belt to George Foreman a while back, but the new champion was now Ali this time around. There was more hype to this fight than during their first meeting, as Ali dominated the media again since he felt he had something to prove. Unfortunately, at this point in his career, Ali was the greatest of all time and proved too much for Frazier to handle. Frazier’s manager, Eddie Futch, threw in the towel during the 14th round.
Frazier was often underappreciated as an entertainer, even though he got due respect as a fighter. Besides being a hero in his hometown of Philadelphia, he was even a pretty good singer and had a band called the Knockouts. He has made several appearances on TV, and has remained a popular figure in the media after retirement. When talking about the greatest boxers of all time, Frazier will always be in the conversation.