Former Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier was Toughness Personified
The recent passing of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier from liver cancer left a giant hole in the world of boxing.
Frazier, 67, who died barely four weeks after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, was a boxing giant.
Best known for his three epic battles with fellow great Muhammad Ali, Frazier was a 1964 olympic gold medalist who went on to win the heavyweight championship in 1970, when he flattened title holder Jimmy Ellis in five short rounds.
A straight-ahead, here-I-come, stop-me-if-you-can slugger, Frazier combined pit bull tenacity, a bone-breaking left hook, and monumental will to overwhelm most opponents.
Frazier fought often and fought everybody; his battles against Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, and George Chuvalo are legendary.
Never a fancy boxer, Frazier preferred to dig in his heels and punch. Where more technical boxers feinted, parried, and spun, Frazier cracked, rattled, and rolled.
Always willing to take a few punches to get close, Frazier would get in a man's chest and pound away, rarely letting an opponent breathe.
It wasn't until March 8, 1971, when Joe Frazier met Muhammad Ali in one of the most hotly anticipated heavyweight title fights in boxing history, that Joe entered boxing immortality.
In the fight, billed as the "Fight of the Century," Ali and Frazier gave each other all they had.
Ali, who was on the comeback trail after being stripped of his heavyweight title and license to box in 1967, started fast, peppering Frazier with jabs and crosses.
Frazier looked befuddled and outclassed in the early going, but then something happened: Joe started to smoke!
He chased Ali and cornered him. He raked his body with powerful lefts and rights, and stunned Ali repeatedly with powerful left hooks to the jaw.
In the 11th round, Frazier nearly ended the fight after a powerful left hook to the head buckled Ali's knees and caused him to sag into the ropes.
The crowd went wild. The sting and flash were gone from Ali's punches; he held on.
Ali managed, somehow, to survive the round, but he was dropped, hard, by a powerful left hook in the 15th round.
Ali scrambled to his feet and held on till the final bell. After the judges scorecards were read, Ali was no longer unbeaten, and Frazier, having just vanquished the "Greatest," was elevated to boxing immortality.
Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali would fight twice more, with Ali winning a 12-round decision in their 1974 fight and then stopping Frazier at the end of the 14th round in their 1975 rubber match, dubbed the "Thrilla in Manila," one of the most brutal heavyweight battles ever, a fight Ali said was the "closest thing to death" he had ever experienced.
Between his duels with Ali, Frazier lost his heavyweight championship to an up-and-coming young olympian named George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica.
In a huge upset, Foreman stopped Frazier in the second round of a one-sided fight that saw Frazier hit the canvas six times before the referree ended the proceedings.
Proving his toughness and championship heart, Frazier kept rising valiantly after each knockdown, always trying to turn the fight around with one well-placed left hook.
But ultimately, Foreman proved too strong.
Frazier ultimately retired in 1976, after losing for the second time to "Big" George Foreman, whose powerful blows and ponderous style were simply too much for Frazier to handle.
But win, lose, or draw, which he did during a one-fight comeback attempt against one Jumbo Cummings in 1981, Joe Frazier was a warrior, always coming forward, always looking to put the pressure on and "smoke" his opponents!
The boxing world lost a true icon and legend with the passing of Joe Frazier!
Rest in peace champ!