Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight champion who handed Muhammad Ali his first defeat has died after a brief final fight with liver cancer. He was 67.
The family issued a release confirming the boxer’s death last night.
Frazier took on Ali in three momentous fights in the 1970s — including the epic “Thrilla in Manilla.” A family friend says he had been under home hospice care after being diagnosed just weeks ago. Until then, Frazier had been doing regular autograph appearances, including one in Las Vegas in September.
Smokin’ Joe was a small yet ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early. It was the left hook that dropped Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in the so-called “Fight of the Century.”
Though he beat Ali in that fight, Frazier lost the final two and for many years was bitter about the role Ali forced him to play as his foil.