SMOKIN JOE FRAZIER
TRIBUTE TO SMOKIN JOE FRAZIER
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FIGHT OF THE CENTURY WAS JOE'S NIGHT

What isn’t known by all is the lengths to which Joe Frazier went to help Ali get his boxing license reinstated; how he personally took it to the federal level, how he helped Ali promote a possible match-up with himself during the time when Ali wasn’t even allowed to fight just to drum up public interest, how he went along with practically every single suggestion Ali made, how when Ali was in financial trouble due to impending court costs, he put some “love” in Ali’s hand…anything to help a brother out.

Can you imagine his surprise, when Muhammad “turned on him”? Can you imagine the utter shock and disbelief and deep hurt Joe must have felt when this man, this brother in need, whom he had gone to such great lengths to help, began calling him names, began taunting him, belittling him to great length, questioning his intelligence, insulting his appearance, and questioning his very blackness? The hurt, the betrayal, the words on swords dipped in alcohol must have cut him to his very core. To Ali, to be sure, it was nothing personal; it was the business of promoting possibly the last fight of his life before he went to jail. But to Joe, nothing could have been more personal than to have the man he had reached out to help from a pit of despair and give him his livelihood back, in return, paint such a demeaning picture of him that his own children were being tormented at school. This man, whom he helped, was now destroying the character and the good name he had worked so hard to build his whole life. It must have felt as if no good deed goes unpunished.

How hard Joe must have trained, the dreams of violence he must have had, the anticipation that must have grown within him approaching his date with destiny. By the time fight night arrived, Joe had been portrayed as the White Man’s champion, the establishment’s champion, the pro-Vietnam champion while Ali was the hippie’s champ, the Black Power Champ, the anti-establishment’s champion or, more cruelly, “The People’s Champion”. Two worlds were about to collide in Madison Square Garden; but more importantly, two men. For Ali, it was his return to the spotlight, his moment to show he was the one and only Heavyweight Champion of the World and kick the political bigots who brought him down. For Frazier, it was far more personal; it was a chance to finally get his hands on that Son of a Bitch.

Make no mistake about it, No One Deserved to get their ass kicked more than Muhammad Ali on March 8th of 1971…..and No One deserved to kick his ass more than Joe Frazier. We remember “The Fight” as the night two courageous gladiators clad in red and green battled it out for the entire world to see and we never took a breath for the entire 15 Rounds. Joe Frazier, more than likely, doesn’t see it quite that way. For, to him, it was a vindication, it was revenge, and, more importantly, it was poetic justice, especially when he landed that “thing of beauty”, to quote the late great Eddie Futch, on Ali’s chin in the 15th and final round and sent his tassels dancing three feet above where they normally would be. No, I imagine Joe doesn’t put such a lofty description on that night as we do. I imagine he just smiles as he reminisces about March 8th of so many years ago as the night he simply buttoned the Louisville Lip and kicked Muhammad Ali’s ass.

Frazier-Ali I will forever be remembered by most as the True “Fight of the Century”……just don’t forget WHO won it.

I love Muhammad Ali for who he was and what he meant to the sport and to all of us who want to kick back at the establishment and believe him to be a truthfully good man in every sense of the word. However, there’s no rule saying good men are incapable of bad acts; and I truthfully can relate to what Joe Frazier must have felt going into that ring so many years ago. Ali, as great as he was, wasn’t perfect and it’s readily apparent how much he hurt Joe in the build up for that fight, which is why it’s emotionally satisfying that Joe won and won in dramatic fashion on what would become the highlight of his professional career. What better statement can one make about a fighter than to say he won “The Fight of the Century”?

Happy Anniversary, Joe….and thanks for the memories.