WITH his championship belt and a pair of gloves draped over his casket, Joe Frazier was going one more round.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson asked mourners to rise, put their hands together and for one last time “show your love” for the former heavyweight champion.
Muhammad Ali obliged.
Wearing a dark suit and sunglasses, a frail and trembling Ali rose from his seat and vigorously clapped for “Smokin' Joe,” the fighter who handed Ali his first loss.
Ali was among the nearly 4,000 people who packed the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where Frazier spent much of his life, for a two-hour “joyful celebration” in honour of the boxer. He died last week of liver cancer at the age of 67.
Also attending were former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, fellow Philadelphia fighter and longtime middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins and promoter Don King.
Jackson delivered a stirring eulogy, describing Frazier as someone who “came from segregation, degradation and disgrace to amazing grace”.
“Tell them Rocky was not a champion. Joe Frazier was,” he said, referring to the character from the boxing movie, Rocky. “Rocky's fists are frozen in stone. Joe's fists are smokin'. Rocky never tasted his own blood.”
“We made history together,” added King, who promoted Ali's Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman. “We tried to make America better.”