Boxing legend and former heavyweight champion of the world Joe Frazier has died, after a very brief bout with cancer. Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer only about a month ago and died while in hospice care. He was 67 years old.
Joe Frazier won a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, and in the early 1970s he was the world’s champ and a top rival of Muhammad Ali.
Frazier rose to the championship while Muhammad Ali was “in exile” — from the time he was convicted of draft evasion in 1967 to the time he won in court in 1971. Prior to this exclusion, Ali had been the undefeated title holder.
Although Frazier — also undefeated — had the official stamp as world’s champ, the public knew there were two guys out there with a legitimate claim to the title. That set up the so-called Fight of the Century in Madison Square Garden in 1971.
Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali with persistence and a mighty left hook. But Joe lost a 1974 re-match, and he lost to Ali again in 1975’s Thrilla in Manila.
Ali’s public taunts of Frazier, which included some pretty rude name-calling, caused a lot of bad blood between the two rivals. Boxing fans loved it. They consider the bouts between Ali and Frazier to be some of the best stuff ever. Two guys who come as close as possible to killing each other in a culturally sanctioned display of brutality? That’s good boxing!
Nowadays plenty of people think Joe Frazier got the short end of the stick in the PR battle with Muhammad Ali. And so the rivalry lives on, in the form of arguments over who was the better fighter.
To read more, here is the Who2 biography of Joe Frazier.