For those of my generation he shared the spotlight with arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time. In fact, his titanic struggles with Muhammad Ali established him as one of the greatest heavyweights in boxing history. This past week, boxing, and the world lost a great man, when Smokin' Joe Frazier passed away too early at the age of 67.
My memories of Joe are not only important as a fan, they are important as a friend. Since I was 19 years old, I have had the pleasure of meeting Joe and his son Marvis on numerous occasions. In fact, only a couple of years ago, I had the great honour of being the master of ceremonies at the 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner of the Joe Frazier vs. George Chuvalo fight. Prior to that, I was lucky enough to have spent hours talking with Joe and his son Marvis as I interviewed Joe for TSN.
We spoke of his early days as an amateur, his winning the gold medal in '64 in Tokyo, we spoke of his rise in the pro ranks, we spoke of how his long time trainer Yancy Durham gave him the name "Smokin" virtually by accident.
And when the camera's were off, we spoke of boxing and of our lives in boxing.
Marvis, a former amateur standout and heavyweight contender, now a Christian preacher, engaged in the conversation as well and was beaming as we spoke of the exploits of his father. Joe, forever proud, exuded that pride and honour at having his son by his side.
As a fan, I remember Joe simply as an unstoppable warrior with more heart and guts than any man who has stepped in the ring. His powerful left hook and relentless body attack made him arguably the most exciting heavyweight of his time. For my generation, he was Tyson before there was a Tyson.
As a trainer, I remember the confidence of the man, the never say die attitude, and the respect for everyone he faced. I remember his mantra, when he responded to Ali in '71, when Ali questioned how he thought Joe could beat him after he had beaten such greats as Liston, Foley and Bonevena. Joe, always sure and strong in his self belief answered in the greatest way possible; "you're not fighting Sonny Liston, you're not fighting Zora Foley, you're not fighting Oscar Bonevena!! YOU'RE FIGHTING JOE FRAZIER, YOU'RE FIGHTING JOE FRAZIER!!!! And could Joe Frazier fight!!!!
In the most important boxing event since Louis fought Schmeling in '38, and in the contest simply known as "The Fight", Joe Frazier's devastating Philadelphia left hook dropped Ali in the 15th and final round to put the final stamp on the crowning moment of his career. With the world watching one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th century, Joe Frazier laid claim to the greatest prize in sports, by beating "The Greatest".
Yet as a man, and more importantly as a friend, I remember his pain. No, not the pain from punches taken in the ring, but the pain from the hurt inside where no one can see. The hurt for his family and his children who were subjected to the torment and abuse from others, because of the cruelty that Ali bestowed upon him. Joe was a proud humble man who would never back down from anyone and who never disrespected anyone. He proudly won a gold medal for his country, and he conducted himself as nothing but a true gentleman and a man of class. He earned his respects by giving respect and by taking punches and never complaining. In fact he embodied the word champion in and out of the ring.
Sadly, he has left us now, the champion of my youth, the champion whose example of courage has humbled all who have witnessed it. His courage will always be an example to me and a reminder of the greatness he possessed.
I remember Smokin' Joe and I know there will never be another like him.
To echo the sentiments of the late Eddie Futch I can only say, "Joe, the world will never forget you!"
Rest in peace my friend, it was the ultimate honour to have known you.
This past Saturday, Lucian Bute successfully defended his IBF World Super-Middleweight Championship with a dominating 12 round unanimous decision over veteran challenger Glen Johnson. Bute virtually pitched a shutout winning all 12 rounds on two of the three judges scorecards and 11 of 12 on the other. It should be noted as well, that one of the judges scoring the fight was veteran Las Vegas fight judge Jerry Roth, and he scored it a shutout for the unbeaten champion.
Bute's dominance over Johnson was the most one-sided performance over the man known as the Road Warrior in the last 14 years. Johnson, a hard-nosed battler has waged war with a who's who of boxing, names like Clinton Woods, Roy Jones Jr., Antonio Tarver, Chad Dawson, Carl Froch, Tavoris Cloud to name a few, dot the landscape that is his record. Yet through this Hall of Fame list, nobody has dominated Johnson in such a one sided manner. In fact you would have to go back to 1997 when a young Bernard Hopkins stopped a game Johnson in 11 rounds after pitching a shutout as well. That's 14 years ago, and since then Johnson has been a nightmare for every opponent he has faced.
With the win, Bute, who was initially excluded from the Super 6 championship, has emerged as its preeminent champion and now awaits the winner of the Carl Froch vs. Andre Ward matchup slated for December.
To give you an idea of the magnitude of this promotion in Quebec City, here are a few facts that will give you an idea of the excitement that reigned in the Colisee on Saturday night.
1. Almost two thousand (2000) people were in attendance at the official weigh-in on Friday.
2. Over fifteen thousand (15,000) people were in attendance at the fight on Saturday. With the exception of NHL hockey and two CFL games played on Saturday, I think it's safe to say that the Bute fight was among the MOST attended sporting events of the weekend in the entire country.
3. While not official, again I think it is safe to say that there was over a million (1,000,000) viewers watching live on Showtime in the U.S.
4. This was Bute 9th defence of his world title which puts him among the most dominant champions in the sport.
5. The Bute fight headlined what was a great undercard which included former two-time World Champion Steve Molitor of Toronto against Quebec's Sebastien Gauthier in what turned out to be a 10 round slugfest and contender for Canadian Fight of the Year honours.
6. The semi main event, and the other fight aired on Showtime was the explosive second round knockout by Pier-Olivier Cote over U.S. prospect Jorge Luis Teron. The win has catapulted the undefeated Cote to a top 15 world ranking at 140 lbs.
And finally, you don't want to miss a great weekend of boxing.
First off, this Saturday, undefeated Canadian Heavyweight Champion Nevan Pajkic looks towards bigger and better things when challenges also undefeated British Champion Tyson Fury for the vacant Commonwealth Heavyweight title. In what is virtually guaranteed to be an all out war from the outset, both Pajkic and Fury will be pulling out all the stops in their attempt at the Commonwealth crown.
In a fight that has been brewing bad blood now for over a year both undefeated prospects will be looking at bigger fights and bigger paydays in the new year with a win.
At 6'9" Fury holds a distinct height and reach advantage over the 6'3" Canadian Champion. For Pajkic, at the age of 34, time is of the essence over his 23 year old rival.
In Canada, the fight can be seen live on SuperChannel starting at 4:45 Eastern Time this Saturday November 12
And last but not least, the rematch all fight fans have been waiting for. Over 3 years in the making, Manny Pacquiao takes on the challenge of arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
This will be the third meeting between these two hall of fame greats. Pacquiao scored a split decision win in their last meeting in 2008, while Marquez fought to a draw with the power punching Filipino back in 2004 after having been down 3 times in the opening round.
Another great matchup between two of boxings brightest and greatest stars.
Enjoy a great weekend of boxing folks!