Monday, November 7, 2011

Joe Frazier Now In His Biggest Fight

By Rich Mancuso

On the same day that boxing had one of the biggest days of the year, word came from Philadelphia that former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier is in hospice care and is gravely ill with liver cancer. The 67-year old Frazier, the first to defeat Muhammad Ali and taking a decision against him has been in hospice care since last week.

Though there is always optimism, doctors have not informed Frazier as to how much longer he will live. And as the sport revived on a Saturday with five title fights in the United States and abroad, we offered our prayers for Frazier who was a part of that proud heavyweight era with Ali, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and George Foreman.

We pray that “Smokin” Joe” has one last fight and will continue to be a public figure at ringside and various autograph sessions. There was a legacy when Frazier was in the ring. Boxing at the time was the sport of kings, known more for the heavyweight division and the lack of alphabet soup organizations that dominate the sport today. Frazier always said he was proud to be a part of that history, and would never criticize a sport that has changed the complexion and life of so many young people.

Said Ali in the “The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists” written by Bert Sugar and Teddy Atlas, “Joe Frazier hit hard…Brawler…Just kept coming, moving forward, no matter how hard you hit him…Could take a punch.” The left hook at Madison Square Garden, known as the “Fight of the Century” put Ali down in the 15th round in 1971. Then it was the sport of kings. He would lose two more fights against Ali, including the Don King promoted “Thrilla in Manila” bout.

Many say, as does Sugar, that it is impossible to not link Frazier and Ali together when discussing some of the memorable rivalries in the sport. “The hyphen between their two names as permanent as the memories they gave,” says Sugar. Ali called Frazier a “gorilla in Manila” and Frazier said, “I didn't want to knock him out. I wanted to take his heart out.”

Frazier defended the heavyweight title four times before Foreman knocked him out six times in the first two rounds in 1973, the last time he would be a heavyweight champion, another example of how much the sport has changed.

Over the years he came to respect Foreman. And Ali, once an adversary and Frazier got closer, and at times were seen together at various functions. Any animosity that existed in the past was just a part of boxing history. The champion and opponent in boxing always seem to bond in later years, as did Frazier and Ali.

Years later, Frazier would get his sons involved in the sport, Marvis, in particular who could never duplicate any achievements of his dad. The gym in a downtown area of Philadelphia was a way for Frazier to identify with young people and his theory of contributing to the sport that made him a part of boxing history.

So we pray for “Smokin’ Joe” and hope he battles the biggest fight of his life. It is a much more difficult and different fight than the “Thrilla in Manila” and the entire boxing community, as we all do looks forward to the day that there will be a KO on cancer!

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