Definitions

smokin' joe frazier

Joe Frazier

[frey-zher]

For the Major League Baseball player and manager, see Joe Frazier (baseball). For the musician, see The Chad Mitchell Trio.
Joseph William "Smokin' Joe" Frazier (born January 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina) is a former world heavyweight boxing champion, active mostly in the 1960s and 1970s. Frazier is perhaps most famous for his trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali.

Life and career

Birth; childhood; amateur career; Olympic champion

Joseph William Frazier was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina to poor sharecroppers and didn't leave for Philadelphia until 1961. He notes in his autobiography that he grew up poor but happy. Even as early as childhood, Frazier was "discovered" by local Philadelphia trainer Yancey "Yank" Durham, a former middleweight boxer who had to quit the game because of a bad back. Durham, along with veteran trainer Willie Reddish, began to train Frazier as an amateur.

Soon after his 20th birthday, as the culmination of a successful amateur boxing career, Frazier won the gold medal in the "84 kilograms (187 lb) and above" category (heavyweight) at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Early professional career

After Frazier won the Olympic heavyweight gold medal, Durham helped put together Cloverlay, a group of local businessmen who invested in Frazier's professional career and allowed him to train full-time. Durham was Frazier's chief trainer and manager until Durham's death in August 1973. Frazier turned professional in 1965, defeating Woody Goss by a knockout in the first round. He won three more fights that year, all by knockout, none going past the third round.

In 1966, as Frazier's career was taking off, Durham contacted Los Angeles trainer Eddie Futch. The two men had never met, but Durham had heard of Futch through the latter's reputation as one of the most respected trainers in boxing. Frazier was sent to Los Angeles to train, before Futch agreed to join Durham as an assistant trainer. With Futch's assistance, Durham arranged three fights in Los Angeles against Al Jones, veteran contender Eddie Machen, and George "Scrapiron" Johnson. Frazier knocked out Jones and Machen, but went 10 rounds with Johnson to win a unanimous decision.

After the Johnson match, Futch became a full-fledged member of the Frazier camp as an assistant trainer and strategist, who also advised Durham on matchmaking. It was Futch who suggested that Frazier boycott the 1967 WBA heavyweight elimination tournament to find a successor to Muhammad Ali, after the heavyweight champion was stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the military, although Frazier was the top-ranked contender at the time.

Futch proved invaluable to Frazier as an assistant trainer, helping modify his style. Under his tutelage, Frazier adopted the bob-and-weave defensive style, making him more difficult for taller opponents to punch, while also giving Frazier more power with his own punches. While Futch remained based in Los Angeles, where he worked as a supervisor with the U.S. Postal Service, he was flown to Philadelphia to work with Frazier during the final preparations for all of his fights.

When Durham died in 1973, Futch was asked to succeed him as Frazier's head trainer and manager. In fact, Futch was also training heavyweight contender Ken Norton at the time. He was in Norton's corner in March 1973, when Norton broke Ali's jaw and won a split decision. After Norton lost the rematch to Ali in September 1973, Norton's managers, Robert Biron and Aaron Rivkind, demanded that Futch choose between training Frazier and Norton. Futch chose Frazier, but not without regret at being forced to make the choice.

Late 1960s: making his presence known

In 1966, Frazier won a decision over Argentine fighter Oscar Bonavena, despite Bonavena flooring him twice in the second round (a third knockdown in that round would have ended the fight).

In 1967, Frazier won all four of his fights, including a sixth-round knockout of Doug Jones and a fourth-round technical knockout (TKO) of George Chuvalo.

In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world heavyweight title due to his refusal to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War. To fill the vacancy, the New York State Athletic Commission held a bout between Frazier and Buster Mathis, with the winner to be recognized as "world champion" by the state of New York. Although the fight was not recognized as a world championship bout by some, Frazier won by a knockout in the 11th round and staked a claim to the heavyweight championship. He then defended his title by beating Manuel Ramos of Mexico in two rounds, and closed 1968 by beating Bonavena via a 15-round decision in a hard-fought rematch.

1969 saw Frazier defend his New York title in Texas, beating Dave Zyglewicz by a first-round knockout, and beating Jerry Quarry by TKO in the seventh round. The competitive, exciting match with Quarry was named 1969 Ring Magazine fight of the year.

Early 1970s: defeats Ali; destroyed by Foreman

On February 16, 1970, Frazier became the undisputed world champion when he defeated WBA champion Jimmy Ellis at Madison Square Garden by a fifth-round knock-out. Ellis had beaten Jerry Quarry in the final bout of a WBA elimination tournament for Ali's vacated belt, but Frazier had declined to participate.

In his first title defence, Frazier travelled to Detroit to fight world light-heavyweight champion Bob Foster, who had set a record for the number of defences in the light-heavyweight division. Frazier (26-0) retained his title by knock-out in two rounds. Then came what was quickly dubbed the Fight Of The Century, his first fight with Ali. This would be the first meeting of two undefeated heavyweight champions, since Ali(31-0) had not lost his title in the ring, but rather been stripped because of his refusal to be inducted in the Armed Forces.

On March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden, Frazier and Ali met in the first of their three bouts. With a worldwide television audience, and an in-house audience that included luminaries such as Frank Sinatra (as a photographer for Life magazine to get a ringside seat), comedian Woody Allen, singer Diana Ross, and actors Dustin Hoffman and Burt Lancaster (who served as "color commentator" with fight announcer Don Dunphy), the two undefeated heavyweights met in the kind of media-frenzied atmosphere not seen since Joe Louis' youth.

Many factors came together for Frazier in this fight. He was 27 years old and at his lifetime peak both physically and mentally, while Ali, 29, was coming back from a three-year absence, taking on Frazier soon after a bruising battle with Oscar Bonavena, whom Ali had defeated by a TKO in 15. Frazier had exhaustively trained specifically for Ali under the tutelage of famed coach Eddie Futch, who had developed a strategy based on Ali's tendency to throw the right-hand uppercut from a straight standing position after dropping the hand in preparation to throw it with force. Futch instructed Frazier to watch Ali's right hand and, at the moment Ali dropped it, to throw a left hook at the spot where they knew Ali's face would be a second later. Frazier's staggering of Ali in the 11th round and his knock-down of Ali in the 15th were both executed precisely in this way.

Frazier lost a number of early rounds but took Ali's combinations without backing down. As Ali started to slow in the middle rounds, Frazier came on strong, landing hard shots to the body as well as the powerful left hooks to the head by virtue of Futch's instructions. Frazier won a clear, 15-round, unanimous decision. Ali was taken to the hospital immediately after the fight to have his badly swollen jaw x-rayed, and Frazier spent time in the hospital during the ensuing week.

In 1972, Frazier successfully defended the title twice, beating Terry Daniels and Ron Stander, both in four-round knockouts.

Then came January 22, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica, and it was Frazier's turn to lose his undefeated record of 29-0 and position as undisputed world champion at the hands of powerful puncher George Foreman. Foreman dominated the brief bout. The fight was stopped in the second round after Frazier was knocked down for the sixth time, three times in each round (the three knock-down rule was not in effect). The first of these knock-downs prompted Howard Cosell's famous call, "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!"

After his loss to Foreman, now 38-0, Frazier won his next fight, a 12-round decision over Joe Bugner in London to begin his quest to regain the title.

Mid 1970s: another title shot; ensuing decline

Frazier's second fight against Ali took place in 1974, in New York, with Ali winning a 12-round unanimous decision. Frazier finished that year with another rematch, knocking out Jerry Quarry in five rounds.

1975 was, once again, a year of rematches for Frazier, but this time they involved more overseas travel. He met Jimmy Ellis, the man from whom he had originally taken the WBA title, in Melbourne, Australia, knocking him out in nine rounds. That win made him once again the number-one challenger for the world crown, now held by Ali after an eighth-round knockout of George Foreman in the famous "The Rumble in the Jungle."

The now aging Ali and Frazier met for the third and final time in Quezon City (a district within the metropolitan area of Manila), the Philippines: the "Thrilla in Manila." Ali took every opportunity to mock Frazier, again calling him The Gorilla, and generally trying to irritate him (and succeeding) at every chance.

The fight for Ali's title, which was attended by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, caused another media frenzy and was seen live around the world. It was far more action-filled than the previous encounter (there was no belt at stake in the second fight), and was a punishing display that ended when Frazier's coach and cornerman, Eddie Futch, stopped the fight before the 15th and final round with Frazier sitting on his stool. Frazier never spoke with Futch again. For his part, Ali described the match as "the closest thing to death" he had ever experienced.

In 1976, Frazier (32-3) fought and again lost to George Foreman, this time by fifth-round knockout, and retired.

Frazier made a cameo appearance in the movie Rocky later in 1976 and dedicated himself to training local boxers in Philadelphia, where he grew up, including some of his own children.

1980s: one fight comeback; trainer and coach

In 1981, Frazier attempted a comeback that lasted only one fight, drawing in 10 rounds with Jumbo Cummings in Chicago, Illinois. He then retired for good.

Since then, Frazier has involved himself in various endeavors. Among his sons who turned to boxing as a career, he helped train Marvis Frazier, a challenger for Larry Holmes's world heavyweight title, and trains his daughter, Jackie Frazier-Lyde.

Frazier's overall record is 32 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw, with 27 wins by knockout. He won 73 percent of his fights by knockout, compared to 60 percent for Ali and 84 percent for Foreman. He is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.

In 1986, Frazier appeared as the "corner man" for Mr. T against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania II at Madison Square Garden. In 1989, Frazier joined Ali, Foreman, Norton and Holmes for the tribute special Champions Forever.

1990s to present

Frazier lives in Philadelphia where he owns and manages a boxing gym. He has diabetes and high blood pressure. He and his nemesis, Muhammad Ali, have alternated over the years between public apologies and public insults.

Frazier appeared as himself in an episode of The Simpsons ("Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?") in 1992, in which he would be beaten up by Barney Gumble. Frazier objected and was instead shown beating up Gumble. He appeared in another episode of The Simpsons ("Homer's Paternity Coot") in 2006. In February 2006, Frazier appeared in Fight Night Round 2 and 3, a game made by EA Sports.

Frazier's autobiography is titled Smokin' Joe and he was widely criticised by Ali fans for relating many of Ali's actions that he considered offensive. Some feel that Frazier has hurt himself with his unrelenting bitterness toward Ali. In 1996, when Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta, Frazier told a reporter that he would like to throw Ali into the fire. Mismanagement of real-estate holdings was cited by the article as a partial explanation for Frazier's economic woes despite winning millions in the ring during the 1970s.

Frazier is still training young fighters, although he needed multiple operations for back injuries sustained in a car accident. It has been reported that he and Ali recently attempted a reconciliation, but as of October 2006 Frazier still claimed to have won all three bouts between the two (officially, Frazier won the first by unanimous decision, lost the second by unanimous decision, and lost the third by TKO). He declared to a Times reporter, when questioned about his bitterness toward Ali, "I am what I am."

Today much of his time is devoted to his foundation work: Smokin' Joe Frazier Foundation.

Professional boxing record

32 Wins (27 knockouts, 5 decisions), 4 Losses (3 knockouts, 1 decision), 1 Draw
Res. Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Draw Floyd Cummings Draw 10 1981-12-03 Chicago, Illinois
Loss George Foreman TKO 5 , 2:26 1976-06-15 Uniondale, NY
Loss Muhammad Ali TKO 14 , 0:59 1975-10-01
Win Jimmy Ellis TKO 9 , 0:59 1975-03-02 Melbourne, Australia
Win Jerry Quarry TKO 5 1974-06-17 New York City, NY
Loss Muhammad Ali Decision 12 1974-01-28 New York City, NY
Win Joe Bugner Decision 12 1973-07-02 London, England
Loss George Foreman TKO 2 , 2:26 1973-01-22 Kingston, Jamaica
Win Ron Stander TKO 5 1972-05-25 Omaha, NE
Win Terry Daniels TKO 4 1972-01-15 New Orleans, LA
Win Muhammad Ali Decision 15 1971-03-08 New York City, NY
Win Bob Foster KO 2 , 0:49 1970-11-18 Detroit, MI
Win Jimmy Ellis TKO 5 1970-02-16 New York City, NY
Win Jerry Quarry TKO 7 , 3:00 1969-06-23 New York City, NY
Win Dave Zyglewicz KO 1 1969-04-22 Houston, TX
Win Oscar Bonavena Decision 15 1968-12-10 Philadelphia, PA
Win Manuel Ramos TKO 2 1968-06-24 New York City, NY
Win Buster Mathis TKO 11 , 2:33 1968-03-04 New York City, NY
Win Marion Connor TKO 3 , 1:40 1967-12-18 Boston, MA
Win Tony Doyle TKO 2 , 1:04 1967-10-17 Philadelphia, PA
Win George Chuvalo TKO 4 , 0:16 1967-07-19 New York City, NY
Win George Johnson Decision 10 1967-05-04 Los Angeles, CA
Win Jefferson Davis KO 5 1967-04-11 Miami Beach, FL
Win Doug Jones KO 6 , 2:21 1967-02-21 Philadelphia, PA
Win Eddie Machen TKO 10 , 0:22 1966-11-21 Los Angeles, CA
Win Oscar Bonavena Decision 10 1966-09-21 New York City, NY
Win Billy Daniels TKO 6 , 3:00 1966-07-25 Philadelphia, PA
Win Al Jones KO 1 , 2:33 1966-05-26 Los Angeles, CA
Win Chuck Leslie KO 3 , 2:47 1966-05-19 Los Angeles, CA
Win Don Smith KO 3 , 1:09 1966-04-28 Pittsburgh, PA
Win Charley Polite TKO 2 , 0:55 1966-04-04 Philadelphia, PA
Win Dick Wipperman TKO 5 , 2:58 1966-03-04 New York City, NY
Win Mel Turnbow KO 1 , 1:41 1966-01-17 Philadelphia, PA
Win Abe Davis KO 1 , 2:38 1965-11-11 Philadelphia, PA
Win Ray Staples KO 2 1965-09-28 Philadelphia, PA
Win Mike Bruce TKO 3 1965-09-20 Philadelphia, PA
Win Woody Goss TKO 1 , 1:42 1965-08-16 Philadelphia, PA

Trivia

  • Joe Frazier was the first American boxer to win both the Olympic gold medal and the professional world title in the heavyweight division.
  • He had a band called "Joe Frazier & the Knockouts" that released songs in the "soul" genre.
  • In the 1990s, he trained award winning artist Richard T. Slone to box.
  • He has operated a boxing gym in North Philadelphia since the late 1960s, used by fighters such as Michael Spinks, Meldrick Taylor, his son Marvis Frazier, and Bernard Hopkins.
  • He is the father of 11 children.

See also

References

External links

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