Nov 102011
Joe Frazier

RIP Smokin' Joe

One of the most famous lines in boxing history will never be the same and this time the subject can’t get up. Howard Cosell announced the Joe Frazier vs. George Foreman heavyweight championship fight in 1973 from Kingston, Jamaica, where the lines originated. Frazier had the courage and the heart that defines the Philly Fighter. He kept getting knocked down and he kept getting up.

When Foreman knocked Frazier down the first of six times, roughly two minutes into the first round, legendary commentator Howard Cosell kept saying: “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”

That fight brought a third player, Foreman, into the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali mix. It was two years after Frazier beat Ali in their first fight that Foreman beat Frazier. Can you imagine there being a third player in the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao mix? Many of us can’t even fathom the thought of that, but it is possible and the Frazier-Foreman fight provides proof it can happen.

Philadelphia boxing has lost a lot of icons this year but our own Bernard Hopkins said it best: “His legacy in the city of Philadelphia is up there with the greats, maybe even surpassing the 76ers’ Dr. J (Julius Erving)”.

At a time when boxing was still a big deal, Philadelphia had one of the boxers in the world. It makes our history that much better. Frazier probably did not get the recognition he deserved in this city. Maybe it was because he did not fight here often (10 times in 37 fights) or because he was not always outspoken, but he always seemed to have a special spot in the heart of the Philadelphia sports fan.

I remember watching the fights with my dad when I was a young girl. He used to tell me about the stories of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. He told me about their great trilogy, about Frazier’s win over Ali and the two losses to go along with it.

Hearing about Frazier’s deadly left hook made me want to know as much as possible about this standup guy, this dedicated fighter. I got his autobiography when I was about 10 years old and the book remains one of my earliest memories about fighters. I learned that our Philadelphia fighter was not from Philadelphia—he was born in South Carolina.

Reading about how he made his first makeshift heavy bag and how he hung it from an oak tree in his backyard was fascinating. Or when he injured his left arm and how–since his family did not have money to go to a doctor–he had to let the arm heal on its own. Due to that process Frazier could never straighten out his arm again. Perhaps that is why he was known for a brutal left hook instead of a stiff jab!
When I sit back and think of this year and all that the Philadelphia boxing community has lost, this one hits me in a different way. Frazier was the best-known athlete worldwide ever from Philadelphia and he represented the city as a gentleman.

Did you know that Smokin’ Joe was paid just $125 for his first fight in 1965 at Convention Hall against Woody Goss? Growing up poor and going from that $125 payday to a $2.5 million dollar payday against Ali in 1971 was a huge change. One thing about Frazier–he always seemed to be grounded and always seemed to remember his roots.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr., soon after hearing the news of Frazier’s death, tweeted: “My condolences go out to the family of the late great Joe Frazier. #TheMoneyTeam will pay for his funeral services.” I hope it happens–Frazier deserves it.

Click here to Comment and Discuss on the PSC Message Board forum

Brittany Rogers contributes the BAM on Boxing column to PSC.  You can also check her out, as well as everything else you need to know on Philly boxing, at  Follow Brittany on Twitter @bamonboxing and Peltz Boxing @PeltzBoxing.