Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who earned boxing immortality after three epic fights with Muhammad Ali, is in hospice care with liver cancer, his manager said on Saturday.
“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier, 67, was diagnosed with liver cancer about a month ago after meeting with more than one doctor and is now in hospice care in Philadelphia, his business and personal manager of seven years, Leslie Wolff, told Reuters.
“We are doing everything we can ... but I would be a liar if I did not tell you it is very serious,” Wolff said.
Wolff said Frazier, who won the Olympic heavyweight boxing gold medal for the United States in 1964 in Tokyo and held the world heavyweight boxing crown from 1970 to 1973, was in a “very painful and serious situation”.
But Wolff added: “Joe is a fighter. Joe doesn’t give up.”
Doctors are still exploring various medical options for Frazier, who has 11 children.
Frazier is eternally linked with Ali thanks to their trilogy of fights in the 1970s which rank among the most famous ever in the sport. Frazier won the first and Ali took the next two.
Frazier won the world heavyweight title in 1970, knocking out champion Jimmy Ellis, after Ali had been stripped of the championship in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War due to his Muslim beliefs.
’FIGHT OF THE CENTURY’
Ali was reinstated in boxing and met Frazier on March 8, 1971 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, in a bout billed as “The Fight of the Century”. Frazier sent Ali to the canvas with a left hook in the 15th round. Ali got up but Frazier won by unanimous decision.
That brutal encounter left both men hospitalised and Frazier later lost his title in 1973 to the hard-hitting George Foreman.
The second Ali-Frazier fight was on Jan. 28, 1974, again at Madison Square Garden, with Ali winning a 12-round decision.
Ali then beat Foreman to reclaim the championship and he went on to defend it in the third Frazier fight on Oct. 1, 1975, in a fabled encounter in the Philippines known as “The Thrilla in Manila”.
The two punished each other for 14 rounds, then Frazier’s trainer and cornerman Eddie Futch stopped the fight before the 15th while Frazier fumed in the ring corner with one of his eyes swollen shut. Frazier never forgave Futch for giving Ali a victory by technical knockout.
Frazier, who was born in segregated South Carolina in 1944 as the youngest of 12 children, amassed a career record of 32-4-1.
He retired after a second loss to Foreman in 1976, then came out of retirement for a fight in 1981 before ending his career for good. His only losses were to Ali and Foreman.