I am very sorry to hear, just now, about the death of former world heavyweight champion boxer Joe Frazier at age 67.
I have come to strongly disapprove of the sport of boxing, for reasons I won’t get into now. But there was a time when heavyweight boxing, especially, commanded as much attention as any sport in the country or indeed on the whole planet. In the early 1970s, you had to choose: You were either a Muhammad Ali man, or you were a Smokin’ Joe man. Ali was a braggart, a loudmouth, a verbal cheat-shot artist willing to play racial stereotypes against other blacks, and not just a draft dodger but a hypocritical one who claimed allegiance to Islam (or a version thereof) for purposes of avoiding the Vietnamese War while not even coming close to living up to a number of its tenets. Joe Frazier, on the other hand, was just a hard-working, straightforward, gutsy, overachieving (as a short-ish man by heavyweight standards, his “reach” was significantly more constrained than the reach of most of his longer-armed opponents) fighter. There was a dignity of sorts to him, an “everyman” quality of a guy from the streets; in some ways he was the black “Rocky” (as in Stallone, not Marciano) before the fictional Rocky ever was filmed.
I liked what I saw of Joe Frazier. I liked his work ethic and his physical courage. I liked that he wasn’t a braggart.
This was a man whose most famous fight ever was an epic loss (although he also, of course, won some major victories), in the justly famous, hugely entertaining “thrilla in Manila.” But Smokin’ Joe was a winner. R.I.P.