Boxer Frazier, Ali’s greatest foe, dies

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Joe Frazier, the relentless  slugger who became the heavyweight champion of the world and  earned boxing immortality with three epic battles against  Muhammad Ali, died yesterday at age 67, his personal manager  said.
“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier, who was the first boxer to beat Ali,  died in Philadelphia a month after being diagnosed with liver  cancer. Leslie Wolff, Frazier’s personal manager, confirmed his  death.
Frazier won the Olympic heavyweight boxing gold medal for  the United States in 1964 in Tokyo and held the world  heavyweight boxing crown from 1970 to 1973.
He is eternally linked with Ali thanks to their trilogy of  fights in the 1970s, among the most famous in the history of  the sport. Frazier won the first and Ali took the next two.
While both fighters were American blacks and Olympic gold  medalists, their personalities could not have been more  different. Ali was a charismatic self-promoter. Frazier was a  proud, no-nonsense man who dropped out of school at age 13.
Frazier won the world heavyweight title in 1970, knocking  out champion Jimmy Ellis, after Ali had been stripped of the  championship in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War  due to his Muslim beliefs.
Ali was reinstated in boxing and met Frazier on March 8,  1971 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, in a bout billed as  “The Fight of the Century.” Frazier sent Ali to the canvas with  a left hook in the 15th round. Ali got up but Frazier won by  unanimous decision.
The brutal encounter left both men hospitalized. Frazier  later lost his title in 1973 to hard-hitting George Foreman.
The second Ali-Frazier fight was on Jan. 28, 1974, again at  Madison Square Garden, with Ali winning a 12-round decision.
Ali then beat Foreman to reclaim the championship. He  defended it in the third Frazier fight on Oct. 1, 1975, in an  encounter in the Philippines known as “The Thrilla in Manila”  — one of the most famous sporting events of the 20th century.
The two punished each other for 14 rounds, then Frazier’s  trainer and cornerman Eddie Futch stopped the fight before the  15th round, while Frazier fumed in the ring corner, one of his  eyes swollen shut. Frazier never forgave Futch for giving Ali a  victory by technical knockout.
The Ali-Frazier rivalry was waged not only in a boxing  ring. Ali ridiculed Frazier as a “gorilla” and an “Uncle Tom,”  a deeply insulting term referring to a black who acts in a  humiliatingly subservient way toward whites.
For his part, Frazier insisted on calling his foe Cassius  Clay, the birth name that Ali changed in 1964 for a Muslim  name.
Frazier remained bitter toward Ali for decades.
“I am who I am, and yes, I whipped Ali all three times,”  Frazier told the New York Times in 2006.
“Ali always said I would be nothing without him,” Frazier  said. “But who would he have been without me?”
Frazier was born in segregated South Carolina in 1944, the  youngest of 12 children. He said his uncle told him when he was  a boy he would become the next Joe Louis, the celebrated black  heavyweight champion of the 1930s and 1940s. Moving to  Philadelphia, he aimed to make good on that prediction.
Frazier amassed a career record of 32-4-1. He retired after  a second loss to Foreman in 1976, then came out of retirement  for a fight in 1981 before ending his career for good. His only  losses were to Ali and Foreman.
Ali became a beloved sports legend but Frazier was never  embraced the same way. He also lost almost all of his money. He  lived alone in an apartment above the gym where he trained  young fighters in a run-down section of Philadelphia.
Frazier in the 1980s managed the boxing career of his  eldest son, Marvis, who was best known for devastating knockout  losses to champions Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson. Frazier’s  daughter Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde entered women’s boxing and  fought Ali’s daughter Laila, losing on a decision in 2001.

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