Great Boxers - ‘Smokin' Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier was a country boy, the son of a South Carolina sharecropper. It was by accident that Frazier became a boxer. He became one of America's greatest amateur heavyweights when he began fighting competitively shortly after joining a gym to get into shape.

His first defeat was in the 1964 Olympic trials to Buster Mathis. However, in Tokyo's summer games, Frazier replaced Mathis because of an injury to the hand. Frazier returned with a gold medal.

With the help of Yank Durham, Frazier turned pro in 1965. He had 11 victories in a row until September 1966 when he fought Oscar Bonavena. He won in the 10th round even though he had been knocked down twice in the 1st.

Shortly after his victory over Bonavena, he knocked out opponents such as George Chuvalo in the 4th round and Doug Jones in the 5th.

At 5'11" and weighing 205lbs in his prime, Frazier was described as having the best left hook since Dempsey. He was a devastating body puncher, never giving his opponent time to breathe.

After Frazier defeated his earlier nemesis Buster Mathis in the 11th round, former champion Muhammad Ali was granted a license to fight again. Shortly after, the demand for a showdown between Frazier and the former undefeated champion grew. With each fighter being paid $2.5 million, the fight was the most anticipated since the Louis-Conn rematch in 1946. On March 8, 1971, Frazier delivered one of the most famous left hooks in boxing history, dropping the former heavyweight champion in the 15th round.

Before beating Ali, Frazier wasn't really considered a champion by many. The 1971 Ali fight was the first title fight between two undefeated boxers. Frazier became the first man to beat Ali. He had however received less press coverage as champion than Ali as challenger. It was billed "The Fight Of The Century." Although he was the undisputed champion, Frazier didn't fight for the rest of the year.

Although much of Smokin' Joe's fame was based mainly on his three great battles with Ali, many agree that Frazier could certainly have given any heavyweight champion a run for their money.

Joe Frazier retired in 1976 after a crushing defeat by George Foreman on January 22, 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. The fight was stopped in the 2nd round after Foreman dropped Frazier six times.

His record stood at 32 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw and 27 knockouts. He was considered a gentleman, who always received a standing ovation when introduced before a fight.