So said Eddie Futch to his man Joe Frazier and just over 36 years later as the death of Smokin’ Joe is announced that fight is still remembered as one of the greats in an ear when boxing was king.
Olympic and Undisputed World Heavyweight boxing champion, when everyone on the planet knew who the Heavyweight champion was, Frazier is probably best remembered for the trio of fights he had with Muhammad Ali in 1971, ’73 and ’75, from the “Fight of the Century” to the “Thrilla In Manila” and the animosity that built between the two.
The first fight, dubbed the “Fight of the Century” – the world wide viewing figures were said to be huge, hundreds of millions to half the world population, what boxing would give for such fights now – saw both men enter the ring unbeaten in their professional careers – Frazier 26-0, 23 KOs and Ali 31-0, 25 KOs. Frazier was reigning champion, having gained the belt a year earlier. A brutal 15 rounds, after Ali won the first few rounds Frazier came on to dominate the rest of the fight, putting Ali on the canvas for only the third time in his pro career and handing the fighter his first pro loss as Frazier retained his belt with a unanimous verdict from the judges.
Their second meeting is the poor relation of the family, as can be seen by the fact it wasn’t given a catchy title just “Ali vs.Frazier II”. But again it was another 15 round brutal contest. But probably ended up being more famous for the animosity between the two outside the ring, as they squared up in a TV studio while watching a rerun of the first fight, as Frazier took exception to Ali calling him
Frazier had lost his Championship belt the previous year to George Foreman and this fight was an eliminator to see who would face Foreman for the title. Ali won a contentious, for some, decision, and went on to rope-a-dope Foreman to regained the title in the “The Rumble In The Jungle”.
Frazier and Ali’s third meeting is probably the most famous, is it actually the fight of the century? While the two previous bouts were 15 rounds of brutal boxing the third took things to a new level, though lasting a round fewer. As Eddie Futch said those famous words
Sit down, son. No one will ever forget what you did here today, to the protesting Frazier as he stopped the fight before the start of the 15th and final round.
The irony of it being that Futch just beat Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee to the punch, as Ali had told his man to cut of his gloves because he couldn’t go on. In a staggering 125 degree heat and with the oppressive humidity of the Philippines both men had been beaten to pulp. Frazier was pretty much fighting blind, Ali had welts all over his body, Futch could see a disaster coming and didn’t want to be responsible for Frazier losing his life.
After the fight Ali apologised to Frazier’s son for what he’d said about his dad. It’s an apology that Frazier would never accept –
Hey, son, why didn’t he say it to me? You’re not me, son. He said it in front of all them people. He said all those words. All them nasty things. Let him come to me and tell me.
The “Thrilla in Manila” took it’s toll on both fighters but the combination of the heat, humidity and beating that Ali took all had a big part in the condition we see him suffering from today and it was something Frazier was proud of –
The damage I done to this man, both mind and body, let them see.
All based on the taunts Ali threw at Frazier,
It’s gonna be a thrilla, and a chilla, and a killa, when I get the Gorilla in Manila – and an
Uncle Tom, after Frazier had supported Ali, personally and financially, through his exile from the sport in the late ’60s for refusing the draft.
Again the irony being that even with the poor state of health Ali is in it’s Frazier who has passed first.
But the Smokin’ Joe Frazier legend will live on. In an era of great heavyweight boxing Joe Frazier was right up there.