Other than Michael Jackson, Joe Frazier is the one celebrity that I personally care about, and I know his passing will hurt like losing a family member. I named my Labrador Retriever after Joe Frazier. That's how much of a Joe Frazier fan I am!! I also have his autobiography and fight collection on DVD.
I'm not going to be like everyone else and write the man's obituary before he even dies. But here are some things about Joe Frazier that maybe you didn't know.
*He was the first heavyweight boxer to win a gold medal in the Olympics. (Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson won medals as light heavyweights and later turned heavyweight as professionals.)Frazier won the medal with a broken thumb.
*He was the first man to professional defeat Muhammad Ali and the second man to put him on the canvas.
*He arguably had the best left hook in the history of boxing. He could fire it from any position and nail you right on the button. The punch was swift and fierce, and resulted in most of his knockouts. Muhammad Ali had poor defense and was always open to Frazier's left hook attacks.
*He was in the same brawler tradition as Mike Tyson, Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano. He came in bobbing and weaving to dodge your punches and would counter with his own, leaving you on the canvas. He constantly pressured his opponents and forced them to fight at his tempo, no matter what they tried to do. Frazier swarmed his opponents like a swarm of killer bees, always attacking and never giving his opponent the room or space to counter effectively.
*Joe Frazier only lost to two boxers as a professional...Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Given all the tough fighters Frazier fought, that alone tells you that this man was great.
*Joe Frazier won the New York State Championship by knocking out Buster Mathis in 1968, and officially won the WBA Championship when he destroyed Jimmy Ellis with a brutal left hook in the 4th round in 1970.
If you're still reading, I appreciate it. Why does Joe Frazier mean so much to me? He was an exciting fighter who literally grunted when he attacked you. Not only that, but he's a class act and a great guy. I used to talk to him on twitter. He told me once that he would knock out Mike Tyson in the 3rd round (I politely disagree) but he gave me good advice once, telling me that a sound mind keeps a sound body.
Smokin' Joe is underrated. He's at least one of the top 5 heavyweights of all time. With his brawling style, fast hand speed and vicious left hook, it's likely that he would have gone undefeated in any era other than the one he fought in.
Joe Frazier is still with us as I write this. I'm praying that he can knock out this cancer with a left hook. I'm sure beating Ali was no easy task either, but Frazier did it. Get well, Joe.
As I said in the beginning of the blog, I covered an NAACP event yesterday honoring the Nashville Freedom Riders. I completed the article last night and it should run in the Tennessee Tribune next week on the front page. It was a pleasure to meet people who made history. They told me that they didn't think they would live long, but they were prepared to die. They were determined to make a difference, despite the hostile racism that constantly haunted them. Their driver was a white man named Jim Ruth, who was also risking his life. (He told me also that the Freedom Riders were the greatest group of people he ever hauled.)
I appreciate the people who were trailblazers for civil rights. To this day, I never sit on the back of the bus. Ever. Why not? Because our African American ancestors fought for us not to sit at the back of the bus. Do I vote? Yes. Do I encourage my peers and today's youth to get an education? Yes I do. It saddens me when I see some black people ignore the opportunities that they have. An older generation died and suffered so that we can have the options we have today. I was blessed enough to go to a good university and actually get a professional job in my field. 70 years ago, I have doubts that I would have even dreamed of the chance. To the Freedom Riders and other Civil Rights Activists of the past, I thank you...