Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight boxing champion, died Monday night in Philadelphia of liver cancer at the age of 67. Known as Smokin’ Joe, Frazier became the first fighter to defeat Muhammad Ali in 1971. He is best known for his three fights against Ali–defeating him once, but losing the other two matches, the third being the famous "Thrilla in Manila" match in 1975.
Frazier was born in Beaufort, S.C. on Jan. 12, 1944. He moved to Philadelphia when he was 15 and got a job at a slaughterhouse. Frazier fought his way through the amateur ranks in Philly and trained by punching slabs of meat, according to an interview with the Guardian back in 2008.
I was the drain man. My job was to make sure the blood went down the drain. But sometimes, early in the morning, I’d go down that long rail of meat and work on my punching. That’s how [Sylvester] Stallone got the same idea for Rocky – just like he used the story about me training by running up the steps of the museum in Philly. But he never paid me for none of my past. I only got paid for a walk-on part. Rocky is a sad story for me.
Frazier made it to the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo where he took the gold medal. He turned pro in 1965 and fought 37 professional fights, winning 32 of them, but never really accepted his losses to Ali.
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman tweeted it best, "Good night Joe Frazier. I love you dear friend."
Joe Frazier, the former Heavyweight Champion of the World poses for a portrait at his boxing gym on March 18, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Joe Frazier lands a punch on Muhammad Ali during their heavyweight fight in Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971 in New York City. Frazier defeated Ali in 15 rounds. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
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