Smokin Joe Dances into History

 Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier: First meeting in the Garden 1971


 Setting the Record Straight on Ali and Joe Frazier

For serious fight fans, like yours truly, or even those with a casual interest in the “sweet science” of boxing – which is why you have so many fighters called “Sugar” – The death of Joe Frazier is a momentous event. To students of the boxing game the epic ring battles between “Smokin Joe” and Ali are exciting to watch on video tape even now, years after the events when we have all seen these fights many times.

Their lasting appeal results from the fact that they represent the highest expression of the art of pugilism.  We are witness to some magic moments in the history of heavy-weight boxing on the world championship level.  However, while Joe Frazier was a great fighter – undoubtably one of the all-time greats of the sport – the attempt by many sports commentators to say that he was a better fighter than Ali – some have even gone to the absurdity of saying a “better man” – is wishful thinking propagated either by members of Frazier’s entourage, die hard Philly fans, or vindictive white sports writers who never liked Ali’s political stances.

However I knew them both and saw all of their fights in real time and I am certain that Frazier would never have won that fight against Ali if the Champ hadn’t been forced out of the ring because he refused to go to Vietnam and was a member of the Nation of Islam!   Had Frazier fought the Ali that fought Sonny Liston he wouldn’t have been able to hit the Champ with a hand full of rice!  And nobody knew that better than Joe.

A week after the Boxing Commissioners took Ali’s title I ran into Joe Frazier in a popular West Philly night club “Mr. Silk’s,” run by that elegant Philly player the legendary Gus Lacy.  At the time Joe was a top contender.  I asked him point blank if he thought he was ready to take the title from Ali.  He grinned sheepishly, did his little country shuffle, and said “Naw, I ain’t quite ready for the Champ yet.”  When Frazier fought Ali the Champ had been exiled from the ring for 3 years! Among boxing wise guys, like yours truly, it was obvious that Ali was suffering from RING RUST!

Frazier’s Greatest Moment in the Ring!

A collective gasp went up the Garden when Joe dropped Ali
  Just look at what happened when Joe fought George Foreman.  Big George whipped Frazier like a runaway slave!  He flattened him several times then knocked his ass out in two rounds!!!!  I believe the same thing would have happened had Joe fought Sonny Liston.  Ali knocked both of these maulers out!!!  Here we see the true greatness of Ali.  Sonny Liston said he was shocked and confused by Ali’s blinding hand and foot speed.  Ali danced on Liston’s ass and hit him with punches from all angles.  He made the most feared fighter of his time look like a chump while taking the Undisputed Heavy-Weight title!!!   Then he whipped him even worse in the rematch.

Years later, near the twilight of his career, Ali did it one mo time against the Fearsome Foreman – who was even bigger and stronger than Liston – and had avoided a life of crime like Liston, who had been a mob enforcer in St. Louis – only because of the time he spent in the Job Corp.  In that fight Ali “roped the dope!”

Foreman now says that he never met anybody who could take a punch like Ali, who laid back on the ropes while George shot his best shots.   Big George says Ali kept whispering in his ears: “You hit like a girl…can’t you do better than that,” messing with his mind and causing George to lose his head.  George also recalls that he was also surprisedby  how hard Ali could punch as he found himself on the canvas with his head spinning like a merry- go – round!

The truth is that Joe Frazier was a brawler; he had an aggressive straight ahead style called “smoking,” but against BIG PUNCHERS smoking proved dangerous to his health!!!  So much for inside the ring.  Outside the ring i.e. the lives they led as men: THERE IS NO COMPARISION; JOE IS NOT IN ALI’S CLASS!!!   In a physical fight it would be a criminal mismatch: a Feather-Weight vs. a Super-Heavyweight, which would result in a public homicide and everyone involved with the promotion, would be jailed!!!   Ali was the perfect champion for our generation, a militant generation whose activism destroyed the legal racial caste system in America and restored the vote to black southerners.

These achievements changed America so fundamentally that we now have had a succession of black Mayors in Atlanta and Birmingham, and now enjoy the tenure of a brilliant black President in the Oval Office, and a gorgeous highly educated first lady – the best ever – directing the White House and their fabulous children are the envy of parents everywhere.

Ali was a major inspiration to Barack as a youth, who kept his picture on his wall even after he became a Senator!!!  Ali’s example of courage and conviction in the face of adversity – which manifested itself as grace, charm and elegance in the face of imminent bodily harm – inspired millions of people around the world of every race and creed!

However Ali is remembered today because of things he did outside the ring, the principled stands he took – like giving up the Heavy-Weight Crown and losing millions because he opposed the Vietnam War!!  Compared to Ali Joe Frazier was just a run of the mill pug!!   For the record, there was no chance that Ali would ever have been sent into combat, rather he would have been assigned to Special Services and used as a morale booster fighting exhibition bouts for the troops, and employed as a spokesman to hype the war and recruit other youths!

Hence Ali made his decision on principle alone!!!  I know some readers of this thread will consider it bad form to Praise Ali upon the passing of Joe Frazier.  But I shall take the position Fredrick Douglass took in his speech at the unveiling of the “Freedman’s Memorial” to Abraham Lincoln: “Truth is beautiful and proper in all places and all times, but it is never more beautiful or proper than when speaking of a man who will be commended to history!”

 Ali Slays the Mighty Liston

What’s my Name Sucker!!!


 Foreman Wipes out Frazier

Dispensed in two Rounds!


Ali Ropes a Dope!

And the Fearsome Foreman Crumbled


 Ali and Smokin Joe’s Last Dance!


The Thrilla in Manila

The Greatest and hisVictims!

A Mighty Three: Frazier, Foreman and Ali


However the Old Lion slowed down in Retirement


In my wildest Dreams!


Double click to see highlights from  Ali = Frazier Fights

Double Click to see Forman take Frazier’s Heavy weight Title

Double Click to see Ali take the Heavy Weight  title from Foreman


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 9, 2911

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