A Tribute to Joe Frazier

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Tyler Alexander, Sports Editor

Joe Frazier was an Olympic and World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, whose career lasted from 1965 to 1976. 

In the 1964 Olympics, Buster Mathis qualified but was injured, giving Frazier his opportunity as a replacement.  In the first round Frazier knocked out George Oywello, a Ugandan boxer, following up the performance by knocking out Athol McQueen of Australia in the third round.  As the only American boxer remaining, he faced Russian Vadim Yemelyanov. 

“My left hook was a heat seeking missile, careening off his face and body time and again.  Twice in the second round I knocked him to the canvas.  But as I pounded away, I felt a jolt of pain shoot through my left arm.”  Joe recalled.  Joe knew immediately his left thumb was injured, he was however not sure of the extent.  “In the midst of the fight, with your adrenaline pumping, it’s hard to gauge such things.  My mind was on more important matters.  Like how I was going to deal with Yemelyanov for the rest of the fight.” 

Frazier forced Yemelyanov to throw in the towel 1:49 into the second round.

Entering the Final round, Frazier didn’t tell anybody about his broken thumb, he calmly went back to his room and soaked his thumb in hot water.  Joe would fight a 30 year old German named Hans Huber.  Fraziers famous left hook didn’t have nearly the impact it normally did; he however would win the Gold in the 1964 Olympics.

Frazier would turn pro in 1965, winning his first fight against Woody Gross in the first round.  Frazier would go on to win three more fights in his first year, none of which going past the third round.

Frazier began to emerge as a legitimate boxer in 1966, fighting Al Jones, Eddie Machen, and George Johnson.  Frazier would knock out Jones and Machen, but would go a surprising 10 rounds against Johnson, ultimately winning in an unanimous decision.  In September of this year, Frazier was floored twice in the second round alone, by Oscar Bonavena.  One more knockdown in the second round would have ended the fight.  Frazier would ultimately staged a remarkable rally, winning the decision in twelve rounds.

In 1967, Frazier proved his dominant ability, winning all six of his fights, including a six-round knockout of Doug Jones, and a fourth-round win over George Chuvalo. 

Meanwhile, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his World Heavyweight Title, for refusing to enroll in the Military during the Vietnam War. 

Due to this, the New York State Athletic Commission scheduled a match between Frazier and Buster Mathis to fill the void of the World Heavyweight Title.  Frazier would go onto win via a knockout in the eleventh round, claiming the title of the World Heavyweight Champion by the State of New York.

Madison Square Garden was home to “The Fight of the Millennium” on March 8th, 1971.  Frazier went into the fight at the age of 27 years old, and at the peak of his boxing career.  Ali on the other hand, would enter the fight at 29 years old, coming directly off of a three year layoff.  In the early rounds of this thrilling fight, Frazier lost many of the early rounds.  As Ali began to slip in the middle rounds, Frazier made his move, landing many blows to the body, and his famous left hook to the head of Ali.  Frazier would ultimately win a 15-round unanimous decision.  Ali would be taken to the hospital following the fight to have his swollen jaw x-rayed.  Frazier would spent time in the hospital as well in the following month, with the fight adding to his already present health problems, such as hypertension, and a kidney infection. 

Frazier would carry his 29-0 record and World Championship into a fight against George Foreman, who carried his undefeated record, and his additional 4” on Frazier, into a thrilling fight on January 22,1973.  Two minutes into the fight in Kingston Jamaica, Frazier was knocked down.  After being knocked down six times, the contest came to a halt, and with it went his undefeated record, and World Championship. 

On January 28, 1974, the second of three fights between Frazier and Ali took place in New York City.  There was no comparison in excitement between their two fights, with Ali winning a 12-round unanimous decision. 

Frazier would meet up with Ali for the last time in Quezon City, Philippians on October 1, 1975 in the “Thrilla in Manila.”  Ali would take all opportunities to mock Frazier before the fight.  After 14 grueling rounds, Frazier was determined to finish the fight, despite his eyes being swollen shut.  Ali would win the fight, but claimed that it was the closest he had ever felt to death.