You didn’t have to be a boxing fan in the ’70s to know the name Joe Frazier and to know that he’ll forever be linked to Muhammad Ali.
Smokin’ Joe was, as The Associated Press reminds us, the first man to beat Ali, “knocking him down and taking a decision in the so-called Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden in 1971. He would go on to lose two more fights to Ali, including the epic ‘Thrilla in Manila.’ “
Now, the 67-year-old Frazier is in hospice care. He has liver cancer.
And Ali, 69, says “the news about Joe is hard to believe and even harder to accept. … Joe is a fighter and a champion, and I am praying he is fighting now.” The Philadelphia Inquirer adds that:
“While promoting their fights, Ali infamously labeled Frazier an ‘Uncle Tom’ and a ‘gorilla.’
“[But] it was Frazier who petitioned President Richard Nixon to intervene to have Ali’s boxing license reinstated after Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Frazier also boycotted the tournament to crown a new champion after Ali was stripped of the title in 1967.
“Both [Leslie Wolff, Frazier’s manager] and Ali’s publicist, Craig Bankey, said they believed the two to be on good terms, as they had done a photo shoot together at Frazier’s now-shuttered North Philadelphia gym a few years ago.”
Back in March, our friends at The Picture Show blog posted several Life magazine photos from the Fight of the Century.