Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Frazier passed away on November 7 at the age of 67. This one-time Olympic gold medalist was best known for his domination of the boxing world in the 1970s, and for being one party to one of the biggest rivalries in sports--Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier.
Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, Frazier always wanted to get away from the hard country life. He finally chalked an escape plan and moved to New York at the age of 15 and after this, there was never a question of looking back.
He soon took to boxing, where an impressive amateur career saw him lose just once in a span of three years. He even won the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves championships from 1962 to 1964. He made it to the 1964 Summer Games, when Buster Mathis--the only man to beat him--had to pull out due to an injury.
Frazier braved on to fight in the finals of the heavyweight division despite having broken his thumb. This was bound to cause him a lot of problems against the bigger Hans Grubber of Germany; however, Joe managed to with a decision over Grubber with a clinical display of punches and hooks.
Soon after his Olympic triumph in Tokyo, Frazier went pro. His career was boosted by the fact that Muhammad Ali's Heavyweight title was stripped from him. This meant the big prize was up for grabs. While Frazier was not the first man to pounce on it, he did beat Jimmy Ellis on February 16, 1970 to be crowned world champion.
He held on to the title for almost three years before losing it to George Foreman. However, he did notch up an impressive 29-0 record up until that point.
Frazier was also known for having fought Muhammad Ali in three of the most unforgettable boxing bouts in history. The duo first locked horns in New York in 1971, where Frazier prevailed in what was dubbed the 'Fight of the Century.' But 'Ali vs. Frazier II' in 1974 was a very one-sided affair that was won by Ali.
Finally, they squared off again in 1975 in what's best known as the 'Thrilla in Manilla.' Ali beat Frazier again, but only after almost losing; he later admitted it had been the toughest bout of his career and the "closest he had ever come to dying." The two boxers eventually buried the hatchet, and remained cordial till the end.
Frazier, who retired in the early 1980s, had his fair share of legal and financial worries over the years. His story ends much like that of so many other has-beens, who can't seem to deal with obscurity after several decades of being at the top of their game. Unfortunately for this great athlete, he was diagnosed with liver cancer just a few months ago and took his last breath in a Philadelphia hospice a few days ago.
Joe Frazier may have died a lonely death, but for millions of adoring fans worldwide, he'll always be Smokin' Joe Frazier, who gave the best in the business a run for their money!