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PUNCHING BACK: Legendary boxer Smokin’ Joe Frazier, seen here knocking down Muhammad Ali during his March 8, 1971 title defense at the Garden, is fighting for his life, suffering from advanced liver cancer,The Post has learned.



PHILADELPHIA - Legendary boxer Smokin’ Joe Frazier is in the final fight of his life.


Frazier, who gave the boxing world the “Thrilla in Manila,” and many other classic memories, is deathly ill with advanced liver cancer, The Post has learned.


“He’s in serious shape, we’re looking for a miracle,’’ said a source close to the former heavyweight champ. “They’re only giving him a short time to live. We need to have as many people as possible praying for Joe right now.’’


A fierce and smothering fighter with a devastating left hook, Frazier, 67, is considered one of the great gentlemen of the sport outside of the ring. His captivating bouts with Muhammad Ali put boxing in the spotlight for a new generation of fans as the sport truly became The Main Event. The “Thrilla in Manila,” the third fight of their epic encounters, was one of the greatest fights of them all.


Both boxers were near exhaustion when Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, ended the fight in Ali’s favor after 14 punishing rounds. Ali entered the ring thinking he was fighting a washed up Frazier, and insulted Frazier often leading up to the fight, calling him a “gorilla.’’ Deeply hurt by the comments, Frazier came at Ali with a vengeance. At one point Ali, gaining new respect for Frazier, whispered in his ear: “Joe, they told me you was all washed up.’’


Ali could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Frazier was the ultimate brawler, yet in his own way, he could turn a phrase too. His response to Ali was classic: “They told you wrong, pretty boy.’’


Throughout those middle rounds, Frazier continued to come at Ali with vicious body blows. After the fight, Ali, who now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, admitted, “It was the closest I’ve come to death.’’


Frazier retired shortly after that battle and became an ambassador for the sport and more, including starting a singing career, billed as Joe Frazier and the Knockouts.

“Joe is one of the sweetest guys you could ever meet,’’ a friend told The Post.


“Sometimes we’d be driving down the highway and see a car broken down and we would have to go out and help somebody. That’s Joe Frazier.’’


Frazier is a champion in and out of the ring.


The son of a South Carolina sharecropper, Frazier was on the 1964 Olympic team and won a gold medal. Over his career, he won 32 fights, 27 by knockout. He had four losses and one draw. He won his first 11 fights by knock out. In 1968, he beat Buster Mathis for the New York State world title at Madison Square Garden. He made six title defenses after that over the next several years and on March 8, 1971 fought Ali at the Garden in the incredible “Fight of the Century.’’


Over 300 million reportedly watched on closed-circuit TV. Ali-Frazier is what boxing was all about.


Frazier came into that first fight at 26-0 with 23 knockouts. Ali came in 31-0 with 25 knockouts. Ali was vehemently against the Vietnam War and refused to be inducted into the Army, causing him to be stripped of his title. Frazier was a symbol for the conservative moment.


This was a boxing war.


In the 15th round, Frazier landed a vicious left that knocked Ali down for a four-count. All three judges gave the fight to Frazier and the first of three battles was in the books as an instant classic, a big payday, a big production and a big finish.


After the “Thrilla in Manila’’ Frazier was never the same boxer. In 1973, George Forman knocked Frazier down six times in the first two rounds of their bout in Kingston, Jamaica, with Howard Cosell yelling what became a signature call for the broadcaster: “Down Goes Frazier!’’


Joe Frazier is down again. He always said, “What makes a champion is heart.’’

“Joe needs everyone’s prayers at this time,’’ said the friend.


Pray for the champ.





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Joe Frazier Dies of Cancer at Age of 67.


He beat Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century, battled him nearly to the death in the Thrilla in Manila. Then Joe Frazier spent the rest of his life trying to fight his way out of Ali's shadow.


That was one fight Frazier never could win.



Joe Frazier may not have reached the status of contemporaries like Muhammad Ali, but he put a hurt on the world's best in a career full of highlights.


He was once a heavyweight champion, and a great one at that. Ali would say as much after Frazier knocked him down in the 15th round en route to becoming the first man to beat Ali at Madison Square Garden in March 1971.


But he bore the burden of being Ali's foil, and he paid the price. Bitter for years about the taunts his former nemesis once threw his way, Frazier only in recent times came to terms with what happened in the past and said he had forgiven Ali for everything he said.


Frazier, who died Monday night after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67, will forever be linked to Ali. But no one in boxing would ever dream of anointing Ali as The Greatest unless he, too, was linked to Smokin' Joe.


''You can't mention Ali without mentioning Joe Frazier,'' said former AP boxing writer Ed Schuyler Jr. ''He beat Ali, don't forget that.''


They fought three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines. They went 41 rounds together, with neither giving an inch and both giving it their all.


In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave almost as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.


''Closest thing to dying that I know of,'' Ali said afterward.


Ali was as merciless with Frazier out of the ring as he was inside it. He called him a gorilla, and mocked him as an Uncle Tom. But he respected him as a fighter, especially after Frazier won a decision to defend his heavyweight title against the then-unbeaten Ali in a fight that was so big Frank Sinatra was shooting pictures at ringside and both fighters earned an astonishing $2.5 million.


The night at the Garden 40 years ago remained fresh in Frazier's mind as he talked about his life, career and relationship with Ali a few months before he died.

''I can't go nowhere where it's not mentioned,'' he told The Associated Press. ''That was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life.''


Bob Arum, who once promoted Ali, said he was saddened by Frazier's passing.


''He was such an inspirational guy. A decent guy. A man of his word,'' Arum said. ''I'm torn up by Joe dying at this relatively young age. I can't say enought about Joe.''


Frazier's death was announced in a statement by his family, who asked to be able to grieve privately and said they would announce ''our father's homecoming celebration'' as soon as possible.


Though slowed in his later years and his speech slurred by the toll of punches taken in the ring, Frazier was still active on the autograph circuit in the months before he died. In September he went to Las Vegas, where he signed autographs in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel-casino shortly before Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s fight against Victor Ortiz.


An old friend, Gene Kilroy, visited with him and watched Frazier work the crowd.

''He was so nice to everybody,'' Kilroy said. ''He would say to each of them, `Joe Frazier, sharp as a razor, what's your name?'''


Frazier was small for a heavyweight, weighing just 205 pounds when he won the title by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their 1970 fight at Madison Square Garden. But he fought every minute of every round going forward behind a vicious left hook, and there were few fighters who could withstand his constant pressure.


His reign as heavyweight champion lasted only four fights — including the win over Ali — before he ran into an even more fearsome slugger than himself. George Foreman responded to Frazier's constant attack by dropping him three times in the first round and three more in the second before their 1973 fight in Jamaica was waved to a close and the world had a new heavyweight champion.


Two fights later, he met Ali in a rematch of their first fight, only this time the outcome was different. Ali won a 12-round decision, and later that year stopped George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire.


There had to be a third fight, though, and what a fight it was. With Ali's heavyweight title at stake, the two met in Manila in a fight that will long be seared in boxing history.


Frazier went after Ali round after round, landing his left hook with regularity as he made Ali backpedal around the ring. But Ali responded with left jabs and right hands that found their mark again and again. Even the intense heat inside the arena couldn't stop the two as they fought every minute of every round with neither willing to concede the other one second of the round.


''They told me Joe Frazier was through,'' Ali told Frazier at one point during the fight.


''They lied,'' Frazier said, before hitting Ali with a left hook.


Finally, though, Frazier simply couldn't see and Futch would not let him go out for the 15th round. Ali won the fight while on his stool, exhausted and contemplating himself whether to go on.


It was one of the greatest fights ever, but it took a toll. Frazier would fight only two more times, getting knocked out in a rematch with Foreman eight months later before coming back in 1981 for an ill advised fight with Jumbo Cummings.


''They should have both retired after the Manila fight,'' Schuyler said. ''They left every bit of talent they had in the ring that day.''


Born in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan 12, 1944, Frazier took up boxing early after watching weekly fights on the black and white television on his family's small farm. He was a top amateur for several years, and became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo despite fighting in the final bout with an injured left thumb.


''Joe Frazier should be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time and a real man,'' Arum told the AP in a telephone interview Monday night. ''He's a guy that stood up for himself. He didn't compromise and always gave 100 percent in the ring. There was never a fight in the ring where Joe didn't give 100 percent.''


After turning pro in 1965, Frazier quickly became known for his punching power, stopping his first 11 opponents.


Within three years he was fighting world-class opposition and, in 1970, beat Ellis to win the heavyweight title that he would hold for more than two years.


It was his fights with Ali, though, that would define Frazier. Though Ali was gracious in defeat in the first fight, he was as vicious with his words as he was with his punches in promoting all three fights — and he never missed a chance to get a jab in at Frazier.


Frazier, who in his later years would have financial trouble and end up running a gym in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia, took the jabs personally. He felt Ali made fun of him by calling him names and said things that were not true just to get under his skin. Those feelings were only magnified as Ali went from being an icon in the ring to one of the most beloved people in the world.


After a trembling Ali it the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta, Frazier was asked by a reporter what he thought about it.


''They should have thrown him in,'' Frazier responded.


He mellowed, though, in recent years, preferring to remember the good from his fights with Ali rather than the bad. Just before the 40th anniversary of his win over Ali earlier this year — a day Frazier celebrated with parties in New York — he said he no longer felt any bitterness toward Ali.


''I forgive him,'' Frazier said. ''He's in a bad way.''



  I just saw him last year on a Byron Allen special about former athletes.  You know the only sport I enjoy outside of running is BOXING!  I love me some to the the right.. duck and hit that mother SHUT YOUR mouth!  Ha!  And boxing is one way to keep my mouth SHUT!  I remember the Joe and Ali fights.    Three in all.  And especially the Thrilla in Manila.  Talk about goooooood times.  It would be a packed house.  And the funny thing is Muhummad always had a way of making his opponents calling them names or telling them what he was gonna do to them...and I remember he used to call Joe a gorilla.  He would whisper it in his ear.  You could literately see the smoke coming outta Joe's ears.  Maybe that's how he got the name Smokin Joe.  Dunno. 


 But what's clear to me is today's fighters are NOTHING like the ones back in the day.  I remember Ken Norton...they used to call him "pretty boy."  Muhummad didn't like that too much.  But Joe and Ali...made BOXING.  And they really brought big time money to the sport.  Especially Ali.  They both made history together.  And you know when I saw Joe last year....he still looked good, body was in tip top shape.  I wonder what happened.  Cuz it seem he spiral downhill real fast.  He only had this condition for about 6 months.  Sumthing else has got to be goin on cuz he's an athlete....and athletes have strong  bodies to fight off diseases.  I wonder was he a drinker.  A closet drinker. Or was he taking those steroids back in the day.    Cuz there is no way he could have possibly go that fast without other things contributing to it.   It will probably come out later.  But!  He too was sooooooooooo young.  And I got news for folks who thinks 67 is old.  Not in black people's time.  67 is really 47.  So he still had a lotta time ahead of him.  But I know it's hard to find a liver in time.  Or he was more sick than what he was lettin on....but!  Still I find that hard to believe cuz he was in such good condition.  I hate to hear about an athlete's death.  Hate it hate it hate it.  Joe, may you rest in peace.  I know you are partying with Brotha Heavy D.  I just know it. 

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