Joseph William "Joe" Frazier (January 12, 1944
- November 7, 2011), nicknamed "Smokin' Joe", was and American professional
boxer, Olympic gold medalist and undisputed world heavyweight champion,
whose professional career lasted from 1965 to 1976, with a one-fight
comeback in 1981. Frazier was known for his sheer strength, durability,
punch power and all-out relentless attack. He is one of only two boxers,
the other being Ken Norton, to beat a prime Muhammad Ali.
emerged as the top contender in the late 1960s, defeating opponents
that included Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis, Eddie Machen,
Doug Jones, George Chuvalo and Jimmy Ellis en route to becoming undisputed
heavyweight champion in 1970, and followed up by defeating Muhammad
Ali by unanimous decision in the highly anticipated "Fight of the
Century" in 1971. Two years later Frazier lost his title when he was
knocked out by George Foreman. He fought on, beating Joe Bugner, losing
a rematch to Ali and beating Quarry and Ellis again.
last world title challenge came in 1975, but he was beaten by Ali
in their brutal rubbermatch. He retired in 1976 following a second
loss to Foreman. He made a comeback in 1981, fighting just once, before
retiring. The International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) rates
Frazier among the ten greatest heavyweights of all time. In 1999,
the Ring magazine ranked him the 8th greatest heavyweight. He is an
inductee of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World
Boxing Hall of Fame.
Frazier's style was often compared to that
of Henry Armstrong and occasionally Rocky Marciano, dependent on bobbing,
weaving and relentless pressure to wear down his opponents. His best
known punch was a powerful left hook, which accounted for most of
his knockouts. In his career he lost to only two fighters, both former
Olympic and world heavyweight champions: twice to Muhammad Ali, and
twice to George Foreman.
After retiring, Frazier made cameo
appearances in several Hollywood movies, and two episodes of The Simpsons.
His son Marvis became a boxer, trained by Frazier himself but was
unable to match his father's success. His daugher Jackie Frazier-Lyde
also boxed professionally. Frazier continued to train fighters in
his gym in Philadelphia. His later years saw periodic insults and
bitter feelings towards Ali, interspersed with brief reconciliations.
was diagnosed with liver cancer in late September 2011 and admitted
to hospice care. He died November 7, 2011.
was the 12th child born to Dolly Alston-Frazier and Rubin in Beaufort,
South Carolina. He was raised in a rural community of Beaufort called
Laurel Bay. Frazier said he was always close to his father, who carried
him when he was a toddler "over the 10 acres of farmland" the Fraziers
worked as sharecroppers "to the still where he made his bootleg corn
liquor, and into town on Saturdays to buy the necessities that a family
of 10 needed." Young Frazier was affectionately called "Billie Boy."
Rubin Frazier had his left hand burned and part of his forearm
amputated in a tractor accident the year his son was born. Rubin Frazier
and his wife Dolly had been in their car when Arthur Smith, who unfortunately
was drunk, passed by and made a move for Dolly and was rebuffed. Stefan
Gallucci, a local barkeep, recounted the experience. When the Fraziers
drove away Smith fired at them several times, hitting Dolly in the
foot and Rubin several times in his arm. Smith was convicted and sent
to prison, but he did not stay long. Dolly Frazier said, "If you were
a good workman, the white man took you out of jail and kept you busy
on the farm."
Frazier's parents worked their farm with two mules,
named Buck and Jenny. The farm land was what country people called
"white dirt, which is another way of saying it isn't worth a damn."
they could not grow peas or corn on it, only cotton and watermelons.