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Celebrating Smokin' Joe and the 'Thrilla at Manila'
« on: April 12, 2009, 02:58:22 PM »

Joe Frazier still simmering over Ali
11 Apr 2009, 0048 hrs IST, AP   

Action Photograph of that famous moment back in 1971 when Frazier sent Ali to the canvas.

NEW YORK: Muhammad Ali described his third and final fight with Joe Frazier as "death, closest thing to dyin' that I know of."

Frazier recalls their brutal matchup outside Manila as something much less grandiose.

"We just did our job," he said. The two great heavyweights always have been the ying and yang of boxing. Why should things change nearly 35 years later?

Now 65 and walking with the use of a cane, the slightly stooped Frazier reflected on the iconic fight in Quezon City in 1975 during a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. He also talked about the contentious relationship between the starring characters, which is the subject of the new HBO documentary "Thrilla in Manila" premiering Saturday night.

"I don't think Manila was my greatest fight," Frazier said forcefully.

He ticks off several others in vivid detail, from the Golden Gloves to his gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, to the "Fight of the Century" - when he beat Ali at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to retain the heavyweight title.

"The greatest fight was '71, when we were all undefeated," he said. "There was more money, more people. I don't know why they make this one out to be the biggest fight."

When it comes to his longtime foil, Frazier is sympathetic to the suffering Parkinson's disease has caused Ali. But as a Christian, Frazier said, he isn't surprised by it, either.

"I'm sorry that he is the way he is, but I didn't have too much to do with it. It was the good man above," Frazier said. "Maybe I did have a little to do with it, but God judges, you know what I'm saying? We don't have the power to judge that the man has above."

Frazier believes that Ali's arrogant boasts of "I am the greatest!" were "a slap in the Lord's face," and that he did the same to his family when he changed his name from Cassius Clay to reflect his Muslim beliefs.

"I respect him as a guy who did a fine job in the fight game," Frazier said. "I don't think he really loves me. I didn't like nothing he done, you know?"

That lingering tension can be traced to their epic trilogy, which turned former friends into enemies and culminated with an event that became as much about politics as prizefighting.

Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos actively sought their 1975 bout to divert attention from the social turmoil that was raging in his country, and promoter Don King - ever one to put on a spectacle - consented to holding the fight at the Araneta Coliseum.

It was the rubber match between two bigger-than-life heavyweights on the decline, Ali having beaten Frazier in their 1974 rematch. Following that bout, the tongue-whipping Ali regained the title by beating George Foreman in Zaire, the famed "Rumble in the Jungle."

Frazier was hanging on for one more shot at the title - and one more at Ali.

The animosity that grew over the pair's first two fights reached a climax when, after the Philippines bout was announced, Ali pulled out a black rubber gorilla and famously launched into a poem: "It will be a killa and a chilla and a thrilla, when I get the gorilla in Manila."

"He kept saying, 'Joe Frazier, I'm going to whup you,"' Frazier recalled, still pained by the race-baiting attacks. "I said, 'Alright, I'm going to wrap your butt up.' People loved him on the basis of his noise."

The fight was scheduled for 10:45 a.m. to accommodate television in the United States, and the morning broke hot and humid. Thousands of people packed the arena, filling even the aisles, and for 14 rounds the two titans clashed - Ali winning the early rounds, Frazier asserting himself over the middle rounds.

Ali staggered Frazier in the 12th, then again in the 13th, one clean punch knocking his mouthpiece into the crowd. Frazier's left eye was swollen shut, his right eye closing. Even though the scorecards were virtually tied, and against Frazier's objections, his trainer Eddie Futch called a stop to the fight.

After throwing his arms up in celebration, an exhausted Ali collapsed to the canvas.

Ali later tried to make amends, calling the mocking use of a gorilla a promotional ploy, and said if "God ever calls me to a holy war, I want Joe Frazier fighting beside me."

But the wounds ran deep, and while the two men have alternated apologies with attacks over the years, their relationship is still raw.

"I don't mind people want to think Muhammad is the greatest fighter around," Frazier said. "Everybody wants to make him great because of his mouth, that he was the best. He was good, but that doesn't make him great. I proved that."

While the aftermath of a career spent inside the ring left Ali a broken man physically, it left Frazier broken financially.

He lost much of his hard-won fortune in real estate dealings gone awry, and gave away untold thousands of dollars, generous to a fault. While contemporaries like Foreman and Larry Holmes - and yes, Ali - are living comfortably, Frazier has only a humble Philadelphia apartment.

He hangs around the gym and spends time with young fighters, but he's no longer interested in the sport at its highest level. There are too many so-called champions in too many weight divisions, and the heavyweights - long considered the most glamorous - have become a joke.

The sport's popularity has waned considerably from the days of his historic battles with Ali, when the "sweet science" was forefront in newspapers and the American psyche. Now, boxing has become a niche sport followed mostly by the devoted.

"It just doesn't interest me anymore, the guys aren't exciting anymore," Frazier said, while holding out hope that its luster might one day be restored.

"Sure it bothers me. I'm going to wait until (President Barack) Obama gets a little quiet in Washington, and then I'm going to see if he has a meeting with me, or take a few guy with me, and seen and be heard about it.

"Let's see if we can get this back to where it needs to be." Perhaps back to where it was in 1975.



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Re: Celebrating Smokin' Joe and the 'Thrilla at Manila'
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2009, 03:02:06 PM »

Fire Still Burns Inside Smokin’ Joe Frazier

PHILADELPHIA — In a cluttered gymnasium on North Broad Street, the stench of a lifetime of hard work hung over the tools of a trade that once made Joe Frazier a heavyweight champion and a wealthy celebrity.

On a quiet, sunny Sunday afternoon in this city he adopted, Frazier stayed well beyond the reach of the natural spotlight that beamed through the front window of Joe Frazier’s Gym and swept across an old boxing ring and rows of rusty lockers. Caught in the glow were tables covered with boxing gloves and head gear, and not nearly enough trainer’s tape to hide an old warrior’s wounds.

In a back room beneath a dim bulb, Frazier sat on a sofa and taped his 62-year-old hands for a light workout.

“A sound body keeps a sound mind,” he said.

Then the man known as Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who once formed half of one of the greatest rivalries in sports, rose slowly to his feet. Slightly stooped but still feeling unstoppable, he began to shadow box.

“Don’t seem like I’m getting any older,” he said on this day in early October. “I weigh about 212 pounds, only 10 pounds heavier than I was in my prime.”

Ten pounds heavier, but millions of dollars lighter, according to Frazier and the marketing people who work with him. Over the years, Frazier has lost a fortune through a combination of his own generosity and naïveté, his carousing, failed business opportunities and a deep hatred for his former chief boxing rival, Muhammad Ali. The other headliners from his fighting days — Ali, George Foreman and Larry Holmes — are millionaires.

But while Ali has benefited from lucrative licensing agreements and remains one the world’s most recognized and celebrated athletes, Frazier lives alone in an apartment one staircase above the gym where he and others train young fighters in a run-down part of town.

“This is my primary residence,” he said. “Don’t matter much. I’m on the road most of the time, anyway.”

Asked about his situation, Frazier became playfully defensive, but would not reveal his financial status.

“Are you asking me how much money I have?” he said. “I got plenty of money. I got a stack of $100 bills rolled up over there in the back of the room.”

Frazier blamed himself, partly, for not effectively promoting his own image.

“I don’t think I handled it right, because I certainly could have gone out more and done better for myself over the years,” he said. “I could have left the gym a little more to be on the road.”

He added: “But I guess, in a way, I’m rich, too. I have my family and I have a sound mind and a sound body, and after all of those brutal fights, I’m lucky to still have my eyesight.”

Frazier was born in 1944 in South Carolina, the youngest of 12 children. His parents worked in the fields, and he dropped out of school at 13.

He made Philadelphia his boxing home, turned professional in August 1965 and won his first 11 bouts by knockouts. He was generously listed at 5 feet 11½ inches when he retained his heavyweight title by defeating Ali in a 15-round decision at Madison Square Garden in March 1971. He compiled a career record of 32-4-1.

These days, Frazier is not completely healthy. While driving on the busy street in front of his gym three years ago, he said, his car experienced a mechanical problem and collided with another car. The Philadelphia police said it had no record of the accident. But Frazier has since had four operations on his back and neck, the most recent three months ago at Pennsylvania Hospital.

A person who was briefed on the accident and said he would speak only on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing his relationship with Frazier said that Larry Holmes helped pay for the operations. Holmes, now a businessman in his hometown of Easton, Pa., answered cautiously when asked if he had done so.

“Joe Frazier is my friend, and what I choose to do for my friends is my own business,” he said. “If I do anything for a friend, it is not done for the purpose of making myself look good and getting my name in the paper. But know this about my friendship with Joe: If I had $4 left in my wallet, two of those would go to Joe.”

Corporate sponsors have not always felt the same way about Frazier.

Darren Prince, Frazier’s marketing manager since 1995, said Frazier remained beloved by fans. But he also said that Frazier’s longstanding animosity toward Ali had hurt him financially.

“They were bitter rivals, and Muhammad always made jokes about Joe, calling him things like an Uncle Tom and a gorilla, and Joe was hurt so he fired back, but sometimes he went too far,” said Prince, who recalled that when Ali lighted the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996, Frazier told a reporter that he would like to throw Ali into the fire.

Frazier’s frequent insistence that he won all three of his fights against Ali also did not endear him to potential sponsors, Prince said.

When told of Prince’s remarks, Frazier said, “I am who I am, and yes, I whipped Ali all three times.”

In fact, Frazier lost two of the three fights, including the Thrilla in Manila bout in 1975. Frazier exposed an emotional scar as he recalled those days.

“Ali kept calling me ugly, but I never thought of myself as being any uglier than him,” he said. “I have 11 babies — somebody thought I was cute.”

Frazier’s 11 children are scattered. He once managed the boxing career of his eldest son, Marvis, a heavyweight. In June 2001, his daughter Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde fought Ali’s daughter Laila and lost on a decision.

Frazier-Lyde is a lawyer and has worked on her father’s behalf in pursuit of money they claim he was owed in a Pennsylvania land deal. In 1973, Frazier purchased 140 acres in Bucks County, Pa., for $843,000. Five years later, a developer agreed to buy the farmland for $1.8 million. Frazier received annual payments from a trust that bought the land with money he had earned in the ring. When the trust went out of business, the payments stopped.

Frazier sued his business partners, claiming that his signature was forged on documents and that he had no knowledge of the sale. In the ensuing years, the land was subdivided and turned into a residential community. The property is now worth an estimated $100 million.

Frazier-Lyde said her father’s former partners took advantage of him.

“They used my father’s money — money he earned through blood, sweat and tears — to build that land,” she said.

She helped her father sue the homeowners, but the case was dismissed in 2003.

Frazier said the matter came down to honor.

“I had a job to do in the ring, and the businessmen around me had a job to do outside the ring,” he said. “I did my job by beating up most of the guys they put in front of me and staying in shape, but the people I trusted didn’t do their jobs.”

Les Wolff, who has served as Frazier’s business and personal manager for the past three years, said he was working to help Frazier recover. He said he talked with a Hollywood director about putting together a movie on Frazier’s life.

“Can you think of two boxers in the world who share the same stature as Ali and Frazier?” Wolff said. “The biggest problem that Joe has had over the years is that he has not been marketed properly.”

On Nov. 30, Frazier will box Willie W. Herenton, the 66-year-old mayor of Memphis, in a three-round charity bout at the Peabody Memphis Hotel. Herenton is a former amateur boxing champion.

“He must have a death wish,” Frazier said.

So Frazier headed toward the ring to resume training. But before leaving the dimly lit room, he stopped to glance at a giant poster that was made from a 1971 cover of Life magazine. It showed him and Ali, side by side and clad in tuxedos, beneath the words “Fight of the Century,” a reference to the first of their three clashes, the one that Frazier won at the Garden. Each fighter made $2.5 million that night.

“Ali always said I would be nothing without him,” Frazier said. “But who would he have been without me?”



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Re: Celebrating Smokin' Joe and the 'Thrilla at Manila'
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2009, 03:16:22 PM »

Ali is overrated as a boxer.  Agree with Frazier.  His mouth is what has gotten all the fame and name in comparision to other greats.  Tyson of the 80's would have knocked the living daylight out of this 'Big Mouth'  Ali.  He does not hold a candle to Tyson at their peaks.


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Re: Celebrating Smokin' Joe and the 'Thrilla at Manila'
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2009, 03:26:52 PM »

Joe Frazier still Smokin’

By Ron Borges

After all these years, Joe Frazier still is Smokin’. More significantly, he’s still steaming, as the new HBO documentary “Thrilla in Manila” reminds us tonight.

This retelling of the events leading up to one of the most savage fights in boxing history would be compelling even if Frazier and Muhammad Ali had gone off hand-and-hand into retirement back in 1975, blood brothers of the most violent sort like Carmen Basilio and Tony DeMarco or Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.

But that could never be. Too much bile had built up between them, boiling over in the years between their first fight in 1971 and the third and final one in Manila nearly five years later.

It was the kind of hatred that only could grow between two men put on earth to test the limits of the other both physically and psychologically. That night the only limit left for them was death, the edge of which each would touch before the fight ended.

As a nearly blind Frazier argued in the corner to fight one last round, he spit fire and blood, glaring at trainer Eddie Futch through slits that once had been eyes. Across the ring, slumped and weary, Ali didn’t realize what was happening. His body beaten to a pulp until his kidneys and liver had begun to malfunction, Ali told his trainer, Angelo Dundee, to cut off his gloves. He wanted no more of Joe Frazier.

“You want to know what makes the crowd scream and holler?” asks Ferdie Pacheco, the verbal co-star of this film and the physician who was in Ali’s corner that night. “Look at round 14. Round 14 is the closest I’ve seen to somebody killing somebody. Ali was very close to killing him. Very close. That’s what gets people killed in boxing - when the fight becomes more important than life and death.”

So it had for Frazier, a sharecropper’s son from South Carolina who lived most of his adult life in a bitter part of north Philadelphia’s ghetto known as “The Badlands.” Unlike Ali, who came from a lower middle class family in Louisville, Ky., and never worked outside of boxing, Frazier was the personification of the black man’s American experience. Yet Ali portrayed him as an Uncle Tom, and that label seared a hole in Frazier’s heart that time cannot fill.

Asked by the documentarian if he was willing to die on that 125-degree day in Manila, the now 65-year-old Frazier says only, “Yeah.”

To this day, Frazier will not yield. When he sees images of Ali, ravaged and robbed by Parkinson’s disease, he feels no sympathy. In fact, he makes clear he believes he gave those things to Ali.

Archival film of Ali calling Frazier a “gorilla” is bad enough, but more revealing are several television interviews in which the depths of his racial insults shine through, making more understandable why an old man living in two rooms on top of a gym in an urban hell hole cannot forgive him.

“The two men hated each other,” narrator Liev Schreiber says. “A personal hatred born out of America’s racial politics of the 1970s - years of animosity festered between these two heavyweight champions. In Manila, it took them to the brink.”

When asked if he feels Ali is paying the price for what he had done as a young man, Frazier inserts, “and said! God knocks you down.” So did Joe Frazier.

It was bad enough that Ali called Frazier ugly, stupid, a “flat-nosed pug” and an Uncle Tom. Yet, he took it even deeper when he began to call him a gorilla two days after he arrived in the Philippines. To a black man, there could have been few worse things to suggest, yet Ali did it time and again. He even produced a tiny rubber gorilla to beat up at press conferences. The crowd laughed. Frazier did not.

When the fight began at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1, 1975, it was staggeringly humid, adding to the agony the two would experience. For the first few rounds, Ali dominated, but soon Frazier began to tear at his body like a pitbull tasting blood and hankering for more. From the fifth round through the 11th, Frazier extracted a price from Ali’s kidneys and liver that left him urinating blood - but he was going blind doing it.

Frazier’s left eye was half blind already from a 1964 training injury. Now his good right eye was being pulled down like a dark shade, leaving him defenseless. Defenseless, but relentless. A bad combination in this situation.

After Futch finally stopped it with the fight close enough that many at the time believed Frazier could have won, Ali summoned his opponent’s son to his locker room. Marvis Frazier recalls how Ali apologized for the things he had said and asked him to tell his father. Returning with the innocence of a boy, what he recalls next shows the depth of the pain Joe Frazier has so long endured.

Recalled the younger Frazier: “He said, ‘Hey, son, why didn’t he say it to me? You’re not me, son. He said it in front of all them people. He said all those words. All them nasty things. Let him come to me and tell me.’ ”

Ali never did, and so two old men sit with their memories, one a silent icon trapped inside a broken body; the other an old fighter still overflowing with the same bile that nearly killed him and left Ali the broken man he is today.

“I’m just proud to let them see the stuff that they said,” an old but still smokin’ Joe says. “The damage I done to this man, both mind and body, let them see.”



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Re: Celebrating Smokin' Joe and the 'Thrilla at Manila'
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2009, 03:29:02 PM »

The Unforgettable Fire of Smokin Joe

By Frank J. Lotierzo

During the final countdown of the past millennium, we had been subjected to an overwhelming number of Top Ten lists. I had paid particular attention to the lists ranking history's top ten greatest heavyweight champions.

After reviewing several boxing publications, internet sites and conducting a personal survey of writers and trainers, I found two irrefutable parallels: (1) Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis were named one and two a majority of the time and (2) Joe Frazier was often found in the bottom third and consistently behind Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano. The names Holyfield and Tyson were usually above Frazier as well.

I found myself wondering if the individuals who ranked these fighters saw the same Joe Frazier I did during the years 1968 through 1974. Perhaps ABC replayed Frazier-Foreman I so many times that Howard Cosell's call of "Down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier" is what most remember when recalling the career of Smokin' Joe. Maybe the overwhelming presence of Muhammad Ali during the 70's and the emergence of the colorful George Foreman of the 90's have overshadowed the accomplishments of Frazier's renowned boxing career.

Looking back at Frazier's career, several things stand out. He was without peer as a body puncher. He fought with never-ending stamina and became stronger as the fight progressed. He cut off the ring and forced his opponents to fight his fight at his pace and possessed a left hook that was without equal in the heavyweight division. Frazier's record is a virtual list of the top heavies of the late 60's through the mid-70's. As early as his 11th pro bout, he took on the "Argentine Bull," Oscar Bonavena who was a veteran of over 30 fights as a pro. After being down twice in the 2nd Round, Frazier stormed back to win the hard-fought 10 Round decision. He was the first to stop the iron-chinned Jerry Quarry and the reigning WBA Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Ellis. Frazier will always be remembered as the first fighter to defeat Muhammad Ali in the biggest and most highly anticipated fight in history. It has been said Frazier won because Ali had just returned to the ring after a 43-month layoff. What is sadly overlooked is that Ali was still a great fighter and fought one of the best fights of his career that night. Frazier's strength, aggression and determination made it impossible for Ali to fight at anything but his best, or Frazier would have half killed him. Had Ali fought anyone except Joe Frazier that night, he would have been a knockout winner. Let's not forget that Frazier was no walk in the park for Ali in their second fight and that he had Ali thinking "No Mas" after the 10th Round of their third and most grueling fight in Manila. Ali has been quoted as saying Frazier was the roughest and toughest fighter he ever faced in the ring. No one can deny the fact that Ali fought the world's top heavyweights from 1960 through 1980. Shouldn't his opinion count for something when evaluating Frazier? He fought more rounds against him than any other fighter.

Over the years Smokin' Joe has been criticized because he never fought any big punchers other than George Foreman. My retort to that is, unless you are talking Baer, Louis or Shavers, every other fighter looks like Slapsie Maxie if Foreman is the measuring stick. Manuel Ramos stood 6' 3" and weighed 230 pounds and had a pulverizing right uppercut that Frazier walked through on his way to scoring a 2nd Round knockout. Oscar Bonavena was a 6' 210 pound wall of granite. In their second fight, with Frazier's title on the line, Frazier cruised to victory, winning almost all 15 rounds on the judges' cards. Jerry Quarry was a good enough puncher that the 6'3" Ron Lyle retreated after being hit with Quarry's bombs, and Earnie Shavers could not get out of the 1st Round with Quarry. Frazier stood up to the hardest punches Quarry ever landed and kept coming forward and wearing Quarry down. Joe repeated his performance more thoroughly five years later when they met a second time. How about Ali? Ali hit hard enough to be the first to stop Liston and Lyle and was the only one to stop Bonavena and Foreman. The rugged Chuck Wepner was knocked down only once, accomplished by Ali something Liston and Foreman could not do. Joe Frazier, over the course of three fights, spent 41 grueling rounds in the ring with Ali. During that time Ali hit Frazier with some of the swiftest combinations and hardest punches he ever hit any opponent with and did not knock him down. The only time Frazier was stopped by Ali was in the Manila fight. His eye was completely swollen shut and he was getting hit with punches he could not see.

Frazier's title tenure lasted five years. He made ten successful defenses, winning eight by knockout. He lost the title to Foreman and failed to regain it from Ali. Some of the fighters who were often ranked higher than Frazier lost their titles to fighters who on their best day would be honored to pay their way into the gym just to see him shadow box. Mike Tyson was stripped of his title by a journeyman named Buster Douglas. Michael Moorer, a fat light heavyweight, dethroned Evander Holyfield and Michael Spinks, a manufactured heavyweight, beat Larry Holmes. You do not need me to tell you that Douglas, Moorer and Spinks would have had more than their feelings hurt had they attempted to take Frazier's title.

Two fighters Frazier is most unfavorably compared to are Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano. Who did they fight anywhere near the caliber of Ali or Foreman? How do we know how Dempsey and Marciano would have fared had they fought the Foreman of 1973-74? Don't be mislead that it is a foregone conclusion either one of them would have been victorious. Dempsey was knocked out in the 1st Round by Fireman Jim Flynn and knocked out of the ring by Luis Firpo. A left hook courtesy of 38-year old Jersey Joe Walcott dropped Marciano, and 40-something Light Heavyweight Champ Archie Moore put Rocky down. Is it a reach to say Dempsey and Marciano would have been stopped by the Foreman who made Frazier a former champ? Not one bit!

Over the years many blanket statements have been made diminishing Frazier's accomplishments because of the way he lost to Foreman. I have this to say to those who have admonished him. Foreman is not just another puncher. He came back and won the title at age 45 with a one-punch knockout.

Foreman throws arm punches and has knocked out fighters from 1969 through 1995. Boxing has never seen such a monstrosity, before him or since. Dempsey, Marciano. Holmes, Tyson and Holyfield have never shared a ring with a fighter who is in the same zip code as Foreman in punching power. Holyfield barely survived his fight with him when he was 42.

After thoroughly and objectively reviewing Frazier's career, it is abundantly clear that to beat him you had to be a great fighter. Two fighters can claim victory over Frazier, George Foreman, the most powerful heavyweight in the last hundred years and maybe ever, and Muhammad Ali, the most skilled and widely accepted as the greatest heavyweight ever. Ali is a legend today because of his victory over Foreman. You can't have it both ways.

Frank Lotierzo hosts "Toe to Toe," a talk radio sports show on ESPN Radio 1490

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