Smokin' Joe Frazier, one of Boxing's great fighters, who will forever be associated with fighting Muhammad Ali in three epic battles, died Monday night after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67.
Frazier's career, and his rivalry with "The Greatest" Ali, fueled boxing's popularity in the 60's and 70's and his influence on boxers cannot be overstated.
Joe Frazier should be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time and a real man.
- Bob Arum
The boxing legend's death comes less than a week before two of the top boxers in the world, Manny Pacquiao and
Pacquiao learned of the death shortly after he arrived in Las Vegas for his fight Saturday night with Manuel Marquez. Like Frazier in his prime, Pacquiao has a powerful left hook that he has used in his remarkable run to stardom.
"Boxing lost a great champion, and the sport lost a great ambassador," Pacquiao said.
Oscar De La Hoya tweeted Monday night about the boxer's death.
"I will miss you my friend. R.I.P. Joe frazier," he said as #RIP Smokin and #RIPJoeFrazier continued trending on Tuesday worldwide on Twitter.
The three epic fights between Frazer and Ali will live in boxing history.
"That was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life," Frazier said.
It was his biggest night.
The relentless, undersized heavyweight ruled the division as champion, then spent a lifetime trying to fight his way out of Ali's shadow.
"I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration," Ali said in a statement. "My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."
They fought three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Thrilla in Manila in the Philippines. They went 41 rounds together. Neither gave an inch and both gave it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave almost as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
"Closest thing to dying that I know of," Ali said afterward.
Ali was as merciless with Frazier out of the ring as he was inside it. He called him a gorilla, and mocked him as an Uncle Tom.
The night at the Garden 40 years ago remained fresh in Frazier's mind as he talked about his life, career and relationship with Ali a few months before he died.
"I can't go nowhere where it's not mentioned," he told The Associated Press.
Just as some believe Ali would not be Ali if it weren't for the fights with Frazier, some Latino boxers had their career's defined by their chance to topple Smokin' Joe.
Frazier faught two Latino boxers Mexico's Manuel Ramos, who he knocked out in 2 rounds in 1968, and Argentine boxer Oscar Natalio "Ringo" Bonavena. Bonavena gave a young Frazier a surprisingly tough battle. In their first fight, Bonavena knocked Frazier down twice in the second round before Frazier rallied to win in 1968.
Born in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan 12, 1944, Frazier took up boxing early after watching weekly fights on the black and white television on his family's small farm. He was a top amateur for several years, and became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo despite fighting in the final bout with an injured left thumb.
"Joe Frazier should be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time and a real man," Arum told the AP in a telephone interview Monday night. "He's a guy that stood up for himself. He didn't compromise and always gave 100 percent in the ring. There was never a fight in the ring where Joe didn't give 100 percent."
After turning pro in 1965, Frazier quickly became known for his punching power, stopping his first 11 opponents. Within three years he was fighting world-class opposition and, in 1970, beat Ellis to win the heavyweight title that he would hold for more than two years.
"He was such an inspirational guy. A decent guy. A man of his word," Arum said. "I'm torn up by Joe dying at this relatively young age. I can't say enough about Joe."
Frazier's death was announced in a statement by his family, who asked to be able to grieve privately and said they would announce "our father's homecoming celebration" as soon as possible.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.