‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier loses fight with cancer
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‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier loses fight with cancer

A picture taken last June shows Joe Frazier making his way through the crowd at the Turning Stone Casino, New York.

A picture taken last June shows Joe Frazier making his way through the crowd at the Turning Stone Casino, New York.

Joe Frazier, the former undisputed heavyweight champ famed for his epic fights against Muhammad Ali, died on Monday after a brief but brave battle with liver cancer. He was 67.

The family issued a statement confirming Frazier’s death late Monday.

The boxing icon won an Olympic gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to launch a brilliant career that spanned almost 20 years but he was best known for fighting Ali in a famed 1970s trilogy of bouts, including the epic “Thrilla in Manila.”

He had been under home care after being diagnosed a couple of weeks ago with the advanced liver cancer that took his life, a family friend said.

“I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Ali said in a statement.

“My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”

Frazier, nicknamed “Smokin’ Joe”, captured two major heavyweight titles while taking on all comers, including Ali, George Foreman, Jerry Quarry, Joe Bugner, Oscar Bonavena and George Chuvalo.

He was a huge part of the heyday of boxing’s heavyweight division in the 1970s. He finished his storied career with 32 wins (27 knockouts), four losses and one draw.

His four losses came at the hands of just two other legendary fighters from that era: Ali and Foreman.

Current world heavyweight boxing champions, the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir from Ukraine, had praise for the fallen legend.

“My brother and I are very sad about the death of Joe Frazier,” said Vitali.

“He was one of the greatest heavyweights. His three fights against Muhammed Ali are undoubtedly among the classics of the sport’s history.”

Frazier was the first man to defeat Ali, with a unanimous 15-round decision in 1971 at Madison Square Garden, in a bout dubbed the “Fight of the Century” that was watched by an estimated TV audience of 300 million.

Frazier’s business manager Leslie Wolff said the fight had passed down through three generations and caused Frazier’s fan base to skyrocket.

“If you look into the history of what took place, there is a lot of emotion,” said Wolff.

“When you have a legend, people respond to a legend.”

For many years after they finished fighting each other in the ring, Frazier remained bitter towards Ali because of the latter’s repeated taunts and verbal jabs.

Ali would often use the words Uncle Tom and gorilla to describe Frazier, but Frazier always tried to take the high road and more recently said he had forgiven Ali.

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