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The Ballad of Smoking Joe Frazier

Joseph Frazier boxer

Philadelphia-raised boxer was popular for his powerful left hook.

Joseph Frazier was born in Beauford, South Carolina. The fighter, more commonly associated with Philidelphia, Pennsylvania, fought professionally from 1965 to 1976. He won an Olympic gold medal in boxing and was undisputed world heavyweight champion. Often called “Smoking Joe”, Frazier was a top contender in the 1960’s.

Joe Frazier had a record of 32 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw
Frazier went to Olympics as a substitute and won the gold medal.
• The Thrilla in Manila was the biggest bout in history

The height of Frazier’s career was his defeat of Muhammed Ali in 1971 in what would be called the “fight of the century.” This would lead to a second and third bout known as the notorious “Thrilla in Manilla.” He retired after a second loss to George Foreman. Well known in US gambling news, the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) rated Frazier as among the 10 greatest heavyweights of all time.

Frazier’s Early Years

Joe Frazier was raised in a family of 14 in Beaufort, South Carolina. Raised in a rural community, Frazier’s father worked on a farm as sharecroppers. Working on land that was considered “white dirt” or worthless dirt, the Fraziers needed another source of income. The father was able to supplement the family income by distilling bootleg corn liquor.

 Joe Frazier

(Photo: The Atlantic)


It was during the early 1950’s that family and neighbors would visit the Frazier home to watch boxing on a black and white television the Father bought. While the Mother sold drinks, Joe and company would watch fighters such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano and Willie Pep. Historians have at times compared Joe’s boxing style to Rocky Marciano.

Joe’s reputation as someone not to be tampered with began when classmates would pay Joe to escort them home to ward off bullies. After his uncle told him he would be the next Joe Louis, Joe set up an old burlap bag and filled it with moss to use as a punching bag. After Frazier witnessed a white farmer beating another guy, he left at 15 years old, on a bus heading north town to avoid being harassed into appearing in court.

Young Joe as an amateur and beyond

Three years later as an amateur, Joe won the Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship in 1962. He went on to win the prestigious title two more times with his only loss being to Buster Mathis who would also compete with him at the U.S Olympic trials in New York. Although he lost again, Joe trained with the Olympic boxing team as an alternate.

At the Olympics, Mathis was injured so Frazier was made a replacement where he went on to win the gold medal in the heavyweight division. With his Olympic trainer Durham and a group of businessmen he put together, Frazier started his professional career. After several wins, Frazier took a loss to veteran contender George Johnson by unanimous decision even though he knocked out earlier in the match.

Well-reputed trainer Eddie Futch became a strategist and trainer in the Frazier camp. It was under Futch’s advice that Joe should boycott the 1967 Elimination Tournament designed to name Ali’s successor. Joe’s absence would detract punters and Vegas’ odds in accordance to US gambling laws. Futch also modified Joe style by adding the bob-and-weave defensive style.

Smoking Joe’s rise as a professional ranks

Frazier would win his next 6 bouts. He would first meet Ali outside the ring months before his stripping of the Heavyweight title. A fight was set up by the New York State Athletic Commission between Joe and Buster Mathis. Joe won the bout by a knockout in the 11th round and became Heavyweight Champion of the World. Although Joe defended his title once, he still my many didn’t fill Ali’s void as champion.

 Joe Frazier

(Photo: DailyMail)


The full validity of his title didn’t occur until Joe’s victory over Jimmy Ellis in 1970. Since Ellis won the 67 elimination tournament, Joe became undisputed champion. That year Muhammed Ali’s 3-year suspension ended and he was making a comeback. The two would finally meet as two heavyweight champions in what would be considered the “fight of the century.” This would have been a field day for online sportsbooks.

In 1971, before a star studded audience, with much preparation and study of Ali’s style, Smoking Joe was able to defeat Ali with a brutal knockdown in the 15th round. Ali was hospitalized with a severe swollen jaw. Frazier remained undefeated past one title defense until he was beating by George Foreman in Jamaica in 1973. After one more bout, Joe would face Ali again with his defeat in the 12th round.

Defeating Foreman in the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” bout in Zaire, Ali regained the heavyweight title. A third bout was set in the Philippines against Smoking Joe in 1975. The “Thrilla in Manilla” was considered the greatest bout in boxing history before the planned Pacquiao Mayweather bout on May 5th. After 14 rounds, Frazier’s trainer stopped the fight and Ali won. After a later defeat by Foreman, Frazier officially retired.

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