JOE FRAZIER ... "SMOKIN' JOE - THE BLACK MARCIANO"
By Tracy Callis
Joe Frazier "came out smoking" at the opening bell and was still smoking 15 rounds later if necessary. He was a swarming, non stop, perpetual motion attacker who fought from a crouch. A sturdy man with a tough jaw, powerhouse left hook (his right wasn’t bad either), and tremendous endurance, Joe came straight at his man, bobbing and weaving as he moved in.
Smokin’ Joe wiped out most competition easily and quickly. Only the better fighters could go any distance with him. He won the title "by degrees" following the action which stripped Muhammad Ali of the crown.
New York state first recognized him as champion and, as he beat man after man, popular opinion considered him to be the best heavyweight around. Finally, in 1970 he knocked out Jimmy Ellis to become THE world champion.
Only two men defeated him in the professional ring – Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Frazier fought three bouts with Ali, winning one without question and losing two, both of which were extremely close. He and Ali went 41 rounds against each other and Joe never left his feet. Only two men ever knocked him down – George Foreman and Oscar Bonavena (both men well over 200 pounds).
On the other hand, he is one of only four men to knock Ali down. He knocked out George Chuvalo who had never been stopped. He flattened huge Buster Mathis. He leveled the lighter, faster Bob Foster. All of this goes to show Joe’s power and quickness.
Stockton (1977 p 92) wrote that Frazier "… was an excellent body puncher and relied primarily on his powerful left hook. He exerted constant pressure and was fairly hard to hit with his bobbing and weaving style. He had no trouble with cuts and took a good punch."
Litsky (1975 p 111) described Frazier as an "aggressive, relentless fighter who withstood punishment so that he could get close enough to his opponent to deal out punishment."
Cosell (1973 p 218) called him "… a very good, very tough fighter." Carpenter (1975 p 136) said Frazier was "pure aggression." Muhammad Ali said "Frazier is not a great boxer. He is just a great street fighter" (see McCallum 1975 p 75).
Henry Cooper, British heavyweight, paired Frazier with Sonny Liston saying, "They were slugger-killers from the hard American school". He added, "You could hit Frazier with your Sunday punch and you could break your hand" (see Atyeo and Dennis 1975 p 82).
Yank Durham, Frazier’s manager, did the things that separated Joe from other good fighters were his determination and strength (see Durant 1976 p 165).
Durant (1976 pp 166 226) wrote "Joe’s great strength comes from his massive shoulders and huge arm and thigh muscles." He described the third Ali-Frazier bout as "… one of the roughest, most dramatic championship bouts ever staged."
Frazier is often compared with Rocky Marciano since their fighting styles were extremely similar. Joe was bigger than Rocky in physical dimensions but whether he was bigger on punch or chin is debatable. Odd (1974 p 68) wrote that he was correctly called the "Black Marciano" due to his physical make-up, fighting style, strength, durability, and punching power.
Atyeo and Dennis (1975 p 82) wrote "Joe Frazier was - perhaps still is – a master slugger, a throwback to the days when men fought each other with bare fists face to face across a chalk mark on the floor. His nickname ‘Black Marciano’ was an apt description, for like ‘The Rock’, any finesse Frazier had in his squat chunky body was entirely eclipsed by his unshakable determination to knock out his opponent."
McCallum (1975 p 74) wrote "Like Marciano, Frazier came to fight." He added "Joe was dedicated in his training just as Rocky was. Both of them trained as they fought and their gym fights were wars. They were willing to take a punch to land one of their own. Both men smashed away at the body to soften up an opponent and to open up the head defenses."
Grombach (1977 p 89) wrote that Frazier was often compared to Rocky Marciano because of high dedication to training and explosive punching.
Teddy Brenner, former matchmaker for Madison Square Garden, said "Frazier throws more punches and throws them faster than Marciano" (see McCallum 1974 p 343).
Cooper (1978 p 151) wrote "Joe was a better fighter than a lot of people believed. There wasn’t a lot of finesse with him, but he was something akin to Marciano" and added "Remember this … He fought Ali when Muhammad was at his best, and he even beat Ali with the title at stake."
Gutteridge (1975 p 35) argued "… Frazier, I am convinced, was strong enough to have walked through many of the idolized heavies of yesterday."
Joe was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. In the opinion of this writer, Frazier was the #13 All-Time Heavyweight. For sure, he was strong enough to have walked through many of the idolized heavies of yesterday – and today !
Atyeo, D. and Dennis, F. 1975. The Holy Warrior – Muhammad Ali. New York: Simon and Schuster
Carpenter, H. 1975. Boxing: A Pictorial History. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company
Cooper, H. 1978. The Great Heavyweights. Secaucus, New Jersey : Chartwell Books, Inc.
Cosell, H. 1973. Cosell. Chicago: The Playboy Press
Durant, J. 1976. The Heavyweight Champions. New York: Hastings House Publishers
Grombach, J. 1977. The Saga of Fist. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, Inc.
Gutteridge, R. 1975. Boxing: The Great Ones. London: Pelham Books Ltd.
Houston, G. 1975. SuperFists. New York: Bounty Books
Litsky, F. 1975. Superstars. Secaucus, New Jersey: Derbibooks, Inc.
McCallum, J. 1974. The World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. Radnor, Pa.: Chilton Book Company
McCallum, J. 1975. The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions. Radnor, Pa.: Chilton Book Company
Odd, G. 1974. Boxing: The Great Champions. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited
Stockton, R. 1977. Who Was the Greatest. Phoenix: Boxing Enterprises
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