NPR : News

Filed Under:

Boxer Joe Frazier, Who Beat Ali In The 'Fight Of The Century,' Has Died

A "sledgehammer left hook" that put Muhammad Ali on the canvas in 1971 pretty much tells the story of Joe Frazier's career, NPR's Tom Goldman says.

"It was as crushing and symbolic" as any of Frazier's punches over his long career, Tom said on Morning Edition. "It put his bitter rival, Muhammad Ali, on his 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' keister at Madison Square Garden in what came to be known as the "Fight of the Century."

The punch, which clinched then-heavyweight champion Frazier's victory over Ali in that fight, "started around Joe Frazier's left hip," Tom said. But, he added, "its origins stretch back a couple of decades to segregated South Carolina, where a young boy from a sharecropping family — Frazier was about 8 — fashioned a punching bag out of a burlap sack stuffed with rags and corn cobs and Spanish moss. By Frazier's own estimation, he slugged that thing for the next six or seven years damn near every day."

Frazier, 67, died Monday night. As we reported yesterday, the former heavyweight champ had been in hospice care. Frazier had liver cancer.

Sports Illustrated's Richard Hoffer writes this morning of the "heroic trilogy" — the three fights Ali and Frazier fought from 1971 to 1975. Hoffer says the first battle (that "Fight of the Century") and the third (the "Thrilla in Manila") were:

"Such violent affairs, such protracted examples of desperation, that any seasons lived beyond them have to be considered a kind of boxing gravy. They were not heavyweight title fights so much as near-death experiences, a brutally choreographed and lightly regulated self-destruction, their pride and ambition so inflamed that survival was no longer part of either fighter's plan."

Ali and Frazier were bitter rivals in those days. Today, The Associated Press reports, Ali issued a statement saying that "the world has lot a great champion. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones." Ali is 69.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Shante, He Stays: RuPaul Reflects On Decades Of Drag — And 2 Emmy Nominations

RuPaul is the most recognizable drag queen in America. His hit show, RuPaul's Drag Race is up for two Emmy Awards as it begins filming its ninth season. But drag, he says, will never be mainstream.
NPR

Food World Rallies For Quake-Hit Amatrice, Home Of Famous Pasta Dish

In Italy and the U.S., restaurants are pledging to use sales of Amatrice's signature dish, spaghetti all' amatriciana, to raise funds for the Italian town devastated by Wednesday's earthquake.
WAMU 88.5

Turmoil At D.C. Agency Linked To Contract Disputes With Top Campaign Contributor

The head of the D.C. Department of General Services has resigned and two top staffers are being forced out after a company that has been a key contributor to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s campaigns lost out on two major city construction contracts, sources tell WAMU 88.5.

NPR

WhatsApp Will Start Sharing Data, Including Phone Numbers, With Facebook

It will also test new ways for businesses to communicate with users on the app. The privacy policy changes mark the long-expected move by Facebook to begin making money from the free app.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.