Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight box champion, died Monday night at 67 after a brief final fight with liver cancer.
The family issued a release confirming the boxer’s death.
Joe Frazier, who handed Muhammad Ali his first defeat yet had to live forever in his shadow.
The boxer, who took on Muhammad Ali in three momentous fights in the 1970s – including the epic “Thrilla in Manilla” – had been under home hospice care in his Philadelphia home after being diagnosed just weeks ago with the cancer that took his life, a family friend said.
Until then, Joe Frazier had been doing regular autograph appearances, including one in Las Vegas in September.
Boxing promoter Don King called Joe Frazier a giant among men.
Smokin’ Joe was a small yet ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early.
It was the left hook that dropped Muhammad Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in the so-called “Fight of the Century”.
Though he beat Muhammad Ali in that fight, Joe Frazier lost the final two and for many years was bitter about the role Ali forced him to play as his foil.
“You can’t mention Ali without mentioning Joe Frazier,” said former AP boxing writer Ed Schuyler Jr.
“He beat Ali, don’t forget that.”
They fought three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines.
They went 41 rounds together, with neither giving an inch and both giving it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights.
Joe Frazier gave almost as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
“Closest thing to dying that I know of,” Muhammad Ali said afterward.
Muhammad Ali was as merciless with Joe Frazier out of the ring as he was inside it. He called him a gorilla, and mocked him as an Uncle Tom.
But he respected him as a fighter, especially after Joe Frazier won a decision to defend his heavyweight title against the then-unbeaten Muhammad Ali in a fight that was so big Frank Sinatra was shooting pictures at ringside and both fighters earned an astonishing $2.5 million.
The night at the Garden 40 years ago remained fresh in Joe Frazier’s mind as he talked about his life, career and relationship with Muhammad Ali a few months before he died.
Joe Frazier told The Associated Press: ”I can’t go nowhere where it’s not mentioned. That was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life.”
Though slowed in his later years and his speech slurred by the toll of punches taken in the ring, Joe Frazier was still active on the autograph circuit in the months before he died.
In September he went to Las Vegas, where he signed autographs in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel-casino shortly before Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s fight against Victor Ortiz.
Joe Frazier was small for a heavyweight, weighing just 205 pounds when he won the title by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their 1970 fight at Madison Square Garden.
But he fought every minute of every round going forward behind a vicious left hook, and there were few fighters who could withstand his constant pressure.
His reign as heavyweight champion lasted only four fights – including the win over Muhammad Ali – before he ran into an even more fearsome slugger than himself.
George Foreman responded to Joe Frazier’s constant attack by dropping him three times in the first round and three more in the second before their 1973 fight in Jamaica was waved to a close and the world had a new heavyweight champion.
Two fights later, he met Muhammad Ali in a rematch of their first fight, only this time the outcome was different.
Muhammad Ali won a 12-round decision, and later that year stopped George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire.
There had to be a third fight, though, and what a fight it was. With Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight title at stake, the two met in Manila in a fight that will long be seared in boxing history.
Joe Frazier went after Muhammad Ali round after round, landing his left hook with regularity as he made Ali backpedal around the ring.