Joe Frazier: A champion who won inside the ring and out
Dave Anderson writes for the New York Times.
Some people mean more together than they do apart, whatever the stage. Churchill and Hitler. Bogart and Bacall. Ali and Frazier. And for all the deserved accolades for Muhammad Ali, I’ve always believed that each at his best, Joe Frazier, who died Monday night at age 67, was the better fighter. And the better man.
After both entered the Madison Square Garden ring undefeated in 1971 for what was called the Fight of the Century, Frazier flattened Ali with a left hook and earned a unanimous and unquestioned 15-round decision that Ali didn’t wait to hear. His jaw swollen, he hurried out of the ring on the way to a nearby hospital. He knew who had won.
The Thrilla in Manila in 1975 was awarded to Ali when Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, wouldn’t let him answer the bell for the 15th round because “he couldn’t see the right hands coming” out of his closed left eye, but Frazier soon talked freely in the interview area. When an exhausted Ali finally arrived, he described their epic in brutality as “next to death.”
That evening, at a party in an old Filipino palace, Ali, his ribs battered, walked stiffly and sat stiffly, painfully offering a finger or two instead of shaking hands....
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