Joe Frazier is in his most important fight – against advanced liver cancer. Leslie Wolff, Frazier’s manager for seven years, says the former heavyweight champ was diagnosed four or five weeks ago and is currently in hospice.
Frazier’s illness was first reported by the New York Post. Unfortunately, sources close to the 67-year-old boxer say he is seriously ill and only has a short time to live.
Smokin’ Joe was a tenacious fighter who kept pressure on his opponents, wearing them down. His fierce left hook accounted for most of his knockouts and often ended fights early.
He is also the first boxer to beat Muhammad Ali in what was dubbed the “Fight of the Century’’ in 1971. Frazier knocked Ali down in the last round of the brutal fight, winning with a unanimous decision.
While Frazier’s first bout with Ali is highly celebrated, it is their third and final fight that is the most famous. The “Thrilla in Manila,” held in the Philippines in 1975, was to determine who was the legitimate Heavyweight Champion between the two bitter rivals.
The fierce battle was made even more difficult by the searing heat in the arena. Frazier’s eyes became so swollen that he was nearly blind, causing his trainer Eddie Futch to end the fight after the 14th round, despite the boxer’s protests. Ali later said, “It was the closest I’ve come to death.’’
Frazier and Ali’s war of words have continued through the years, broken up by periods of reconciliation. In an interview with Sport Illustrated in 2009, Frazier seemed to have let go of his animosity.
Frazier’s friends have not given up hope, saying the champ needs all the prayers he can get. He has ours.