Thanks for the memories, Smokin’ Joe Frazier
Boxing legend Smokin’ Joe Frazier has died after a short bout with liver cancer, aged 67.
Philly’s favourite son reigned as undisputed heavyweight champ during the division’s toughest era, won gold at the 1964 Rome Olympics and slugged it out with bitter rival Muhammad Ali in an epic trilogy that started with the brutal “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden in 1971 and ended four years later with the savage “Thrilla in Manilla”.
They almost killed each other.
Not surprisingly, Smokin Joe’s hall-of-fame career inside the ring overshadows the rest of his life. However, he didn’t just entertain us with his fists.
It’s now part of Hollywood folklore that Sylvester Stallone was inspired to make Rocky after watching bloody punching bag Chuck Wepner miraculously go fifteen rounds with Ali.
However, parts of Rocky Balboa were lifted straight out of Frazier’s life. Struggling on the mean streets of Philly – Joe Frazier. Working in a slaughterhause – Joe Frazier. Running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Joe Frazier.
Frazier didn’t get a screen credit for Rocky but he did score a memorable cameo, introduced to the crowd as “one of the immortals of pugilism” before the Creed v Balboa title fight.
Long after he’d retired, Smokin’ Joe worked Mr. T’s corner for his ten-round fight with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 2. Mr. T was declared the winner on points and the bout ended in chaos with an all-in brawl. For perhaps the only time in his life, Frazier tried to stop a fight!
Smokin Joe’s iconic status was confirmed when he appeared on The Simpson’s to present Homer with with “The First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.”
He also revealed a softer side when consoling Homer, devastated after losing his couch, comparing it to the emptyiness and heartbreak he felt after losing his belt to George Foreman.
Later, Smokin’ Joe got into a fight with Springfield’s resident drunk Barney Gumble at Moe’s Tavern. Barney, who had been “riding [him] all night” ended up seeing stars and dumped in a rubbish bin.
Ali immortalized Smokin’ Joe in verse and many rappers have name-checked him since. Perhaps the best known is by Inspectah Deck, who kicks off the Wu-Tang Clan’s classic posse cut “Protect Ya Neck” with this unforgettable line:
“I smoke on the mic like Smokin’ Joe Frazier…”
Thanks for the memories, Smokin’ Joe. You’re a true legend.
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