“Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” It one of the most memorable calls in sports broadcasting history.
Howard Cosell uttered those words after George Foreman sent Joe Frazier to the mat in a 1973 fight for the World Heavyweight Championship. Foreman would go on to win the Heavyweight Title that night in Jamaica. After that fight, Frazier would never be the World Champion again.
“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier didn’t lose too many fights. Only four as a professional to be exact because he simply pummeled his opponents with a barrage of punches including a devastating left hook. That left hook ended many of his fights early. Of Frazier’s 34 professional wins, 27 came by knockout.
He won the title in 1970 and defended it successfully four times before losing to Foreman.
In 1971, Joe was the first man to beat Muhammad Ali. He knocked down Ali with a left hook in the 15th round of what was billed the “Fight of the Century.” He would eventually lose twice to Ali, one of the losses in the “Thrilla in Manila.”
Yet, despite his career of devastatingly knocking out anything in his path, at age 67, Frazier faced the fight of his life.
Smokin’ Joe was diagnosed with liver cancer a little over a month ago and died earlier this week. It’s a tragic ending to an incredible life.
I was fortunate enough to meet Frazier a few years ago at a charity event. I remember being surprised by his size, or lack there of. He was only 5’11”. Even though he was smallish for a former heavyweight champ he still looked powerful.
When we shook hands, his hand engulfed mine. Saying he had a firm grip would be an understatement. I thought about how, at 60, he could drop me in half-a-second with his patented left hook. As I visited with him for a few minutes, I realized I had nothing to worry about.
I found Frazier to be a gentle guy. He was charming, and his personality certainly lived up to his legendary status. His black suit and black cowboy hat seemed to extenuate his persona. Sure, it was a brief encounter and he was being paid to be there, but I found this brush with greatness to be far more enjoyable than expected.
In times like these, I’m reminded again that cancer can, and likely will, touch us all.
Cancer affects the greatest and the smallest, Smokin’ Joe and Average Joe.