Boxer Joe Frazier, Who Beat Ali In The 'Fight Of The Century,' Has Died | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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

Not My Job: Skier Mikaela Shiffrin Gets Quizzed On Downhill Cheese Races

If you think downhill ski racing is dangerous, then you've never seen the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Races, in which competitors hurl their bodies down a steep hill, chasing a wheel of cheese.
NPR

Spread Of Palm Oil Production Into Africa Threatens Great Apes

Palm oil growers are setting their sights on Africa as they amp up production. More than half of the land that's been set aside for plantations in Africa overlaps with ape habitats, researchers say.
WAMU 88.5

Democrats Push To Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

Virginia's Tim Kaine and other Democrats are trying to overturn the ruling with legislation they say will protect female workers.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

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