A salute to Smoking Joe

Joe Frazier passed away last night and will be remembered as one of the best heavyweights in boxing history.

I grew up in the Lewis/ Tyson era of boxing and not caring very much of what came before and what has happened since. But I can’t call myself a fight fan without having seen the Ali/ Frazier trilogy. I may have been born 12 years after its culmination, but it is a collection of the three boxing fights that I have learnt the most from.

I don’t care too much for this golden age when scientific athleticism in boxing was only just emerging, but the respect I have for these boxers is unparalleled. I was fortunate enough to have seen these fights with the only prior knowledge that Muhammad Ali was a badass. He headed into the fights undefeated. I didn’t really know much about Smoking Joe when I watched the first fight at a friend’s house on VHS and I expected him to be just another addition to Ali’s highlight reel of KO’s. I was just as surprised as the spectators in 1971 when Joe outworked Ali and on occasions smashing him with his infamous left hook.

To redeem himself, Ali was forced to train harder than he had before, to take himself to the limit of his abilities and earn another shot with Frazier. The subsequent rematches over the following years rewarded that determination. The third fight is probably my favourite boxing match of all time. Frazier forced the best out of Ali and contributed to the legendary status that Ali gained and which was millimetres out of Frazier’s grasp.

Ali was my favourite of the old guard, but if I am honest with myself, it was only because of Joe Frazier. Joe accomplished so much through his career and I do feel bad to put merit to his failing above these accomplishments. However, the effects these fights had on me have made them the most significant.

What I learnt from the trilogy is that as a fighter and a person, you must constantly evolve. You need to work hard and learn from your mistakes. Because if you don’t you can lose everything.

Joe meant a lot to many people and each took something different away from their experiences of him.

“I want to hit him, step away and watch him hurt. I want his heart.”
~Joe Frazier

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