“They don’t make them like that anymore!” Often perfumed by nostalgia, it’s a phrase you hear often when it comes to great sportsmen. However, in the case of former heavyweight champion of the world Smokin’ Joe Frazier, it’s every bit as accurate as his signature left hook.
Frazier would have turned 80 years old today. Tragically, the great warrior passed away on November 7, 2011, succumbing to liver cancer at the age of 67. He left behind a glorious and accomplished ring legacy, having waged war against the best of the best during a heavyweight golden era.
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Born in Beaufort, South Carolina on January 12, 1944, Frazier first came to prominence at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He was the only American to win a gold medal that year, but while a professional career would eventually follow, Frazier didn’t have the requisite financial backing one might expect. Truth be told, he was flat broke.
A group of businessmen set up a corporation named Cloverlay that would allow Frazier to train full-time. In Philadephia, he was coached by Yancey “Yank” Durham, who also had assistance from future Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Futch. Futch would eventually take over in the final chapter of Frazier’s career following Durham’s untimely passing in 1973. As a team, they reached the pinnacle and achieved greatness.
The Sporting News looks back at five of Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s greatest hits: