Joe Frazier, the heavyweight boxing champion whose string of wins culminated in the Fight of the Century with Muhammad Ali in 1971, died late Monday. He was 67.
Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer and had been in hospice care.
He transitioned from this life as 'One of God's Men,' on the eve of November 7, 2011, at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Frazier's family said in a statement. We thank you for your prayers for our father and vast outpouring of love and support. Respectfully, we request time to grieve privately as a family. Our father's home going celebration will be announced as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding.
Smokin' Joe rose to boxing preeminence in the late 1960s, defeating a string of opponents and becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion in 1970. He lost his title in 1973 when he was defeated by George Foreman, and later lost to Ali in two rematches. Frazier retired in 1976 after losing once again to Foreman, making a brief comeback in 1981. He finished with a 32-4-1 record, having lost only to Foreman and Ali.
Joseph William Frazier was born in Beaufort, S.C. on Jan. 12, 1944, to Rubin and Dolly Frazier. According to his autobiography, he grew up watching boxing on television, and Frazier's uncle, Israel, would later say that he would be another Joe Louis.
Frazier began training with an old burlap sack filled with various items and would hit it for hours, according to his autobiography. At age 15, he left farm work and went to New York and Philadelphia.
Amateur and Olympics Career
A few years later, Frazier began competing at the amateur level, winning the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves champsionships in 1962 through 1964. An early rival was Buster Mathis, whom he battled during an Olympic trial in New York in 1964. Mathis ultimately won by decision, and Frazier contemplated retirement.
But he returned to training and would eventually make the Olympic team after Mathis injured himself, and he won the 1964 Olympic boxing gold medal in Tokyo.
After his triumph in Japan, Frazier became sponsored by a group of businessmen known as Cloverlay, formed by trainer Yancey Yank Durham. Frazier went professional in 1965, first defeating Woody Goss and beginning a path of dominance that would last almost a decade.
The apex of his career was the Fight of the Century on March 8, 1971, in Madison Square Garden, when Frazier faced the undefeated Ali, who had been stripped of the championship in 1967 for refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam War. The key would be Ali's tendency to drop his right hand before a strike, leaving his face vulnerable. Frazier pummelled Ali in the 11th round and knocked him out in the 15th, cementing his championship.
Decline and Retirement
Frazier would lose his first match to Foreman on Jan. 22, 1973, in Jamaica. He would face Ali again in 1974, where he was defeated after 12 rounds. They would meet again for a final time in the Philipines on Oct. 1, 1975, in the Thrilla in Manila, where Ali would triumph. Frazier would lose to Foreman is his last prominent match and retire, coming back for on match in 1981 against Floyd Jumbo Cummings.
After retiring, Frazier would be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and World Boxing Hall of Fame. His daughter, Jackie Frazier-Lyde, would beome a boxer as well, and in a twist, lost to Muhammed Ali's daughter, Laila, in a match. Frazier would be immortalized in various media, including the Simpsons and an autobiography, Smokin' Joe.
Frazier owned a boxing gym in Philadelphia for some time, but his health declined with diabetes, high blood pressure and back injuries from a car accident.
Earlier this month, Frazier's manager reported that he had liver cancer, and Ali, in a final reconciliation with his longtime rival, said he would pray for him.