Several boxing greats expressed their bereavement following the death of Smokin’ Joe Frazier including the former heavyweight champ’s most famous adversary. “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Muhammad Ali said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
Frazier died on Nov. 7 following a short battle with liver cancer. The 67-year-old was famous for the legendary Fight of the Century at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1971, where he took down Ali in the 15th round and became the heavyweight division champ.
Born in Beaufort, S.C. in 1944, Frazier received early success in boxing as an amateur fighter throughout the 1960s. After receiving the USA’s Olympic boxing gold medal in 1964, he embarked on a professional career and set his base in Philadelphia.
Following his triumph against Ali, he lost his title in 1973 to George Foreman.
Ali and Frazier were pitted against each other two more times. Prior to the famous matches, Ali became notorious for his stinging verbal attacks against Frazier. He called him ugly, compared him to a gorilla and said he was an Uncle Tom.
The second fight took place in New York in 1974, where Ali won in a 12-round decision. Their third and final match was the 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” in the Philippines. Though Frazier appeared to have the upper hand during the middle rounds, Ali later dominated the match for four rounds and ultimately won.
In the ’80s, he lost against Foreman in a rematch and retired after losing a fight against Jumbo Cummings in 1981.
In his later years, Frazier stayed active on the autograph circuit. In September, he signed autographs prior to the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz fight.
Fellow Philadelphia fighter Bernard Hopkins said Frazier was a “special person” who was often “taken for granted.”
“There is no way in the world you should come to Philadelphia and not recognize who Joe Frazier is,” Philly boxer Bernard Hopkins said in a statement, according to ESPN. “It’s a perfect time to build the biggest statue in appreciation for all the heart and love he gave to Philadelphia. It’s Just to say how we regret when it’s not there to touch and see. I said this when he was living, I say this now.”
Foreman also expressed his bereavement and issued a final message to his former opponent on Twitter.
“Good night Joe Frazier. I love you dear friend,” he tweeted.