Saturday 25 March 2017

Boxing: 'Smokin' Joe faces toughest fight of life

Joe Frazier is led to a neutral corner after knocking down Muhammad Ali in the
15th round of their 1971 title bout
Joe Frazier is led to a neutral corner after knocking down Muhammad Ali in the 15th round of their 1971 title bout

Gareth A Davies

'SMOKIN' Joe Frazier, the 67-year-old former world heavyweight champion who was diagnosed a month ago with liver cancer and is now in hospice care in Philadelphia, "needs a miracle" according to his agent. Doctors have not yet told him how long he has to live.

"We have medical experts looking into all the options that are out there," said Leslie Wolff, Frazier's manager, yesterday.

"There are very few. But that doesn't mean we're going to stop looking. We appreciate every prayer we can get. We'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope for a miracle. Joe's a fighter, and doesn't give up."

'Smokin' Joe, whose upper body was built for wrecking other men's careers in combat, and whose legs once threw his powerful torso fearlessly forward, is close to his final curtain call.

The great American former heavyweight prize fighter is widely recognised for his trilogy of ring wars with Muhammad Ali, who once called Frazier -- among other things not so complimentary -- "a real, real fighter, the toughest man in the world."

The former WBC and WBA heavyweight champion, born in South Carolina, the seventh of 13 children of a farm worker, began filling sandbags at the age of nine and developed immense upper-body strength.

After becoming the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games gold medallist, Frazier took his brawling style into the heavyweight division, becoming champion in an era of memorable names and fights.

The motto written up in Frazier's Philadelphia gym was "Sweat in the gym, don't bleed in the streets". There were times when he was preparing for fights when those around him said smoke rose from his gloves, as he bobbed and weaved into his opponents' range.

Frazier was one of the great global names in the era of 15-round title fights. He earned millions; he spent millions. He had 11 children.

Although the Ali fights are widely known, his defeats of Jerry Quarry and George Chuvalo -- the only one of Chuvalo's 91 opponents to beat him before the final bell -- are career highlights which mark him as one of the great heavyweights. However, in popular terms, he remains indelibly associated in boxing history with his greatest rival. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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