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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

RIP Joe Frazier 1944-2011

The Champ has had his final battle and, at age 67, Smokin' Joe Frazier is now no longer with us.

The news on Saturday about his illness had prepared me for what was going to happen, but I was still shocked when I heard the news.

These great Heavyweight Champions of the past are like gods to me, far better than us mere mortals and true heroes, which makes it all the harder to accept Frazier is gone.

His era in the ring had already passed on by the time I entered this World, but my love for boxing came from watching tapes of the classic fights between himself and George Foreman and Muhammed Ali, and hearing the stories my old man told me about these great fighters of yesteryear.

There has already been a lot of talk about the fights Frazier and Ali had, particularly the brutal 'Thrilla in Manila' that effectively finished both of their careers as neither was ever the same fighter again.

Joe Frazier may have gone 1-4 in his fights against the other two great fighters of his time, but the trilogy with Ali shows why he is considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time and he extracted every bit of talent from his 5 foot 9, 205 pound frame.

I always had Frazier in my personal list of top 10 heavyweights of all time, but I wish he had received more recognition while he was still with us. There are calls for a statue to be erected in Philadelphia, especially as the city honoured a fictional boxer in 'Rocky Balboa' in that way already, it is just a shame Smokin' Joe will not be able to see it himself.

His strength of character, his heart and desire and belief to be the best will always be remembered, and you only hear pleasant things from those who were fortunate to spend any time in his company.

A man who showed compassion when providing Ali with financial support during his years of exile from the ring, a man who then commissioned the President Richard Nixon to overturn the ban on Ali.

He was also a man who was punished in the ring by George Foreman, but kept getting up despite taking some of the biggest shots he could- that fight showed the heart and courage Frazier had.

And then we get to the Thrilla in Manila where Frazier could barely see by the end of the 14 Rounds, but still pushed himself against his greatest rival and still wanted more.

Ali remarked in that fight that 'they said you (Frazier) were through', only to be given a quick reply from Joe exclaiming 'they lied'. Anyone who hasn't watched that fight must see it as both took each other to the limit, both being hurt at points in the fight, yet showing the desire to do anything to win.

These are the memories of Joe Frazier that will cement his place in all boxing fans eyes for years to come as stories of this great era of heavyweight boxing is passed down the generations.

Eddie Hutch, Frazier's legendary trainer, pulled his fighter out between the 14th and 15th Round of the fight in Manila, to save Frazier from more punishment.

Hutch told Joe 'no one will forget what you did here today'... I will take those comments further and say no one will forget you Joe Frazier.

RIP, 1944-2011

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