Ali Frazier – There was a time when Muhammad Ali taunted Joe Frazier relentlessly, called him ugly and challenged his manhood.
After his old rival died Monday night, Ali had nothing but kind words for Smokin’ Joe.
“The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Ali said in a short statement. “My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
Frazier died at 67 after a brief battle with liver cancer. He and Ali will be linked forever, both heavyweight champions and bitter enemies in the boxing ring who squared off in three epic fights from 1971-75.
Frazier won the first one at Madison Square Garden in the Fight of the Century. Ali took the last two, cementing his legend as The Greatest.
Outside the ring, Ali called Frazier a gorilla and mocked him as an Uncle Tom. Between the ropes, they nearly fought to the death in the Thrilla in Manila.
Those became the most poignant and defining moments of Frazier’s fantastic career. But he also was the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. He was the heavyweight champ from February 1970 to January 1973, an era when that crown truly meant something. He was beloved as an adopted son of Philadelphia, embodying the city’s blue-collar grit.
And when the last round of his final fight ended Monday night, reaction to Frazier’s death poured in from every corner of the sports world.
“Good night Joe Frazier. I love you dear friend,” former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who stopped Frazier to win the title, posted to his Twitter account.