Joseph William "Joe" Frazier (January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011), also known as Smokin' Joe, was an American professional boxer, Olympic gold medalist and Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, whose professional career lasted from 1965 to 1976, with a one-fight comeback in 1981.
Frazier emerged as the top contender in the late 1960s, defeating opponents that included Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis, Eddie Machen, Doug Jones, George Chuvalo and Jimmy Ellis en route to becoming Undisputed Heavyweight Champion in 1970, and followed up by defeating Muhammad Ali by unanimous decision in the highly anticipated "Fight of the Century" in 1971. Two years later Frazier lost his title when he was knocked out by George Foreman. He fought on, beating Joe Bugner, losing a rematch to Ali and beating Quarry and Ellis again.
Frazier's last world title challenge came in 1975, but he was beaten by Ali in their brutal rubbermatch. He retired in 1976 following a second loss to Foreman. He made a comeback in 1981, fighting just once, before retiring. The International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) rates Frazier among the ten greatest heavyweights of all time. In 1999, The Ring ranked him the 8th greatest heavyweight. He is an inductee of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Frazier's style was often compared to that of Henry Armstrong and occasionally Rocky Marciano, dependent on bobbing, weaving and relentless pressure to wear down his opponents. His best known punch was a powerful left hook, which accounted for most of his knockouts. In his career he lost to only two fighters, both former Olympic and world heavyweight champions: twice to Muhammad Ali, and twice to George Foreman.
After retiring, Frazier made cameo appearances in several Hollywood movies, and two episodes of The Simpsons. His son Marvis became a boxer—trained by Frazier himself—but was unable to match his father's success. His daughter Jackie Frazier-Lyde also boxed professionally. Frazier continued to train fighters in his gym in Philadelphia. His later years saw periodic insults and bitter feelings towards Ali, interspersed with brief reconciliations.
Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer in late September 2011 and admitted to hospice care. He died November 7, 2011.
By Dean Hanley
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