“The world has lost a great champion,” said Joe’s arch nemesis Muhammad Ali who fought Frazier three times. “I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
Frazier, who won Olympic gold in 1964, became the world heavyweight champion in 1970 after Ali had been stripped of his titles in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. When Ali tried to reclaim his belts, Frazier beat him, winning their much-hyped clash dubbed “The fight of the Century” in 1971. Frazier and Ali met a further two times in the ring, Ali winning both contests, including the epic “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.
Smokin Joe also fought compatriot George Foreman, another of boxing’s heavyweight greats. They met twice, Foreman getting the better on both occasions.
Foreman told BBC Radio 5 live, “Once I heard the news about Joe Frazier I found myself saying, ‘Down goes George Foreman’. He was a wonderful man and a wonderful friend and the world won’t be the same without him.” He continued, “Joe Frazier was the most amazing fighter. He never stood any more than 5ft 9in, some say 5ft 10in, but he was not that tall. Every big man in boxing was afraid of little guys. He was such a terror. Muhammad Ali and George Foreman were big guys but when we went in the ring with Joe Frazier, we had to have respect. I hoped I never had to fight him. He wouldn’t back down. If you hit him, he liked it.”
Frazier’s career ended with a record of 32 wins in 37 contests. He was from the golden era of heavyweight fighters, a time of Ali, Foreman, Norton and Holmes. He boasted wins over fighters such as Jerry Quarry, George Chuvalo and of course Muhammad Ali. He was known for his aggressive style and devastating left hook. His rivalry with Ali was perhaps the greatest in boxing history. Their fights were epic and will live on in the memory of people for generations to come. Perhaps his greatest ever complement came from Ali himself who described Frazier as “the greatest fighter of all time, next to me”.