|Born||Jan. 12, 1944
Beaufort, South Carolina, United States
|Died||Nov. 7, 2011 (at age 67)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Joe Frazier, also known as Smokin’ Joe, was a famous professional boxer. He was an Olympic gold medalist and the undisputed World Heavyweight champion. His professional career lasted between 1965 and 1976, with a one-fight comeback in 1981. He is best remembered for his grueling 14-round match against Muhammad Ali in the Philippines, known as the Thrilla in Manila.
Joe was born on January 12, 1944, in Beaufort, South Carolina. His parents were sharecroppers and so his family never had much money. When he turned 13, Joe Frazier quit school and left home two years later to be on his own. He went to New York City to stay with his older brother and find work. Finding employment was very hard and so he started to make money by stealing cars and selling them in a junkyard in Brooklyn.
However, Joe harbored dreams of doing something different in life. Most of these dreams were built around boxing. As a young man in South Carolina, he dreamed of becoming the next Joe Louis. After moving to Philadelphia, Frazier found work at a slaughterhouse. Here, he frequently punched the sides of beef stored in a refrigerated room.
This scene later inspired Sylvester Stallone for the 1976 film Rocky. It was not until 1961 when Joe Frazier entered the ring and started his career of boxing. He was a rough and undisciplined boxer, but his unpolished talent caught the attention of trainer Yank Durham.
Frazier vs. Ali
In 1965, Joe turned professional and in just one year, he had an 11 – 0 record. Only three years later, he was crowned heavyweight champion. However, this happened partially due to Muhammad Ali getting stripped of the title the year before. In 1970, Ali managed to sue to get his boxing license back.
On March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden, Ali and Frazier met. This was widely referred to as the “Fight of the Century” and it was highly publicized. With a worldwide television audience and a large in-house audience that included celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen, Diana Ross, Burt Lancaster and Dustin Hoffman, the two undefeated heavyweights met in an atmosphere not seen since the days of Joe Louis.
At the time of this fight, Joe Frazier was 27 years old and his career was at its peak since he was physically and mentally strong. Ali was 29 years old and was coming back from a three-year absence. During the fight, Joe lost a number of early rounds, but he took Muhammad’s combinations without backing down. During the middle rounds, Ali started to slow down and Joe came out very strong. Frazier won the match and Ali was taken to the hospital afterwards because he sustained a severely swollen jaw.
Frazier vs. Foreman
Frazier lost his undefeated record of 29 – 0 and his world championship when he fought the unbeaten George Foreman on January 22, 1973, in Jamaica. Despite Frazier being the overall favorite, Foreman towered four inches over the shorter champion. Foreman soon dominated the fight and two minutes into the first round, he knocked Frazier down to the mat.
In 1976, Frazier personally requested another fight against Foreman. He appeared in the fight with a totally new image since he had shaved his head. At first, Frazier put a good fight, but George fought back and knocked him down. Shortly after this fight, Joe announced his retirement.
The Thrilla in Manila
Frazier and Ali met for the third and final time in the Philippines on October 1, 1975. Ali took this chance to mock Joe and even called him “The Gorilla” in efforts to try to irritate him. The fight was action-filled and both fighters were physically exhausted due to the very hot conditions. After 14 rounds, referee Eddie Futch stopped the fight as Frazier’s eyes were swelling shut. Ali was awarded the victory.
In 1976, Joe made a cameo appearance in the movie Rocky. During the late 1970s, he turned his attention to music and created a soul-funk group named Joe Frazier and Knockouts. The group recorded several singles and travelled all over Europe and USA performing in different places.
Later Years and Death
In 1981, Joe attempted a comeback. He went more than 10 rounds with Floyd Cummings in Chicago. After this, he retired for good. He lived in Philadelphia where he managed his own boxing gym. He was later diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.
In September of 2011, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He died on about two months later in November.