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All You Need to Know About Joe Frazier

Last Updated: 04.07.22


If you’ve been going through Wavemaster punching bag reviews, then you surely know that Joe Frazier is one of the most popular heavyweight boxing champions in the sport’s history. His powerful left hook and short punches managed to secure the title, many victories, and three legendary fights against Muhammad Ali, including the Thrilla of Manila. 

Boxing is a beautiful sport that has been around for a long time so, naturally, there have been many fighters throughout its history that became legends and an inspiration for many young people who want to reach the same level of performance. One of them is Joe Frazier, a world heavyweight champion who held the title from 1970 to 1973. 

Frazier was born in 1944, in the city of Beaufort, South Carolina, and after becoming heavyweight champion in 1970, the title was lost to George Foreman in the popular match that took place in 1973. One of the most popular fights he is known for, though, took place in 1975 and it’s known today as the Thrilla in Manila. 

That’s when he had a 14-round match against Muhammad Ali, which took place in the Philippines and was eventually won by Ali through technical knockout. This legendary fight is still considered as one of the best in boxing history, and it was watched by almost 1 billion viewers, a record number that is still hard to equal today. 


Frazier’s early years 

Joe Frazier was the youngest of a large family with 12 children. His parents didn’t have too much money, as they were sharecroppers, so by age 15 the soon-to-be-famous Frazier had quit school and was living on his own. It was during this time that he moved to New York City in order to find work, as one of the older brothers was there. 

However, this didn’t go as planned and he couldn’t find work, so he started stealing cars in order to make money by having a junkyard in Brooklyn buy them. This situation was not one he was happy with, as he always wanted to do something more with his life. His dreams were already built around the idea of boxing, given that Joe Louis was one of his role models growing up. 

When he was still a kid in South Carolina, he had fashioned punching bags by filling burlap bags with moss and leaves. As he moved around the country, his love for boxing remained strong, and it was when he worked at a slaughterhouse in Philadelphia that he would routinely train by punching sides of beef inside the refrigerated room. 

This practice would later inspire the iconic scenes of the 1976 “Rocky” movie, starring Sylvester Stallone. However, it took a while for Frazier to make it in the boxing ring, and it was in 1961 that he actually began to fight. Even though he was undisciplined, his rough talent did catch Yan Durham’s eye, a trainer that would show him the first steps in this sport. 


Becoming a champion 

Frazier was one of the top heavyweights in the United States, but he did lose the Olympic trials in 1964, when Buster Mathias took the spot. He made it to the Olympic Games in Tokyo only as a replacement when the same Mathias suffered a hand injury. However, that’s when he did win the gold medal, which led to the beginning of his professional career in 1965. 

Frazier’s body also helped him, given that he was tall at 5’1” and weighed around 205 pounds, which made his opponents fear him. His fighting style was aggressive and he also had a very powerful left hook. It was under Durham’s guidance that Frazier’s punches got shorter and his left hook became more powerful, thus making him a successful and praised boxer. 

He held the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves Champion title for three years straight, while also getting the gold medal at the Summer Olympics of 1964 in Tokyo. It was in 1965 that he turned pro and during less than a year he had an impressive 11-0 record. 

Then, in 1968 he became the heavyweight champion, but this was also due to the fact the Muhammad Ali had been stripped of this title the year before. In 1970, Ali sued the decision and managed to get the boxing license back, which led to a much-anticipated fight between Ali and Frazier. 


Frazier vs. Ali 

The two fighters clearly respected each other, but they were certainly not friends, and it’s a known fact that Ali repeatedly referred to Frazier as an “Uncle Tom”, which fueled the competition between them. Frazier was angry about this situation and years afterward he still hadn’t cooled on the topic.  

The first highly anticipated match took place on March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden, and it was a night to remember for those who are passionate about this beautiful sport. It was a packed house that included many popular figures at the time, such as Hubert Humphrey and Frank Sinatra, the latter having photographed the event for Life Magazine. 

Even though Frazier was both shorter and lighter than Ali, he managed to wear the champion down and won the fight in a unanimous decision. This was also Ali’s first professional defeat, which made the match even more unforgettable. It was this victory that made Frazier an overnight star and led to many other opportunities and financial gains. 

The champion purchased a 368-acre farm located near the place where he grew up, and also became the first African-American to speak in front of the South Carolina Legislature since the Reconstruction.

However, the Madison Square Garden match was only the first one in which the two boxing champions met, and the next one took place in 1974. The year before, Frazier had lost his title to George Foreman, and now he was once again stepping into the ring with Ali. The second time around, it was Ali’s turn to be victorious. 

The final match between these two great boxers took place in 1975 and it’s still known as the Thrilla in Manila, given that it took place in the Philippines and that it was such a great fight. In fact, this match is considered by many boxing historians as one of the greatest. 

The fight lasted for an impressive 14 rounds before Frazier was prevented by his trainer, Eddie Futch, from coming out for the final round, as he was battling serious eyesight issues. When Muhammad Ali talked about this fight, later on, he referred to it as being the closest thing to death he’d known. 


The end of his career 

Frazier retired in 1976 when he was 32 years old. He tried to get back in the ring in 1981, but after just one fight, he retired for good. His son Marvis and daughter Jacqui both took up boxing as well, and the former champion managed his son’s career during the later years. His daughter fought Muhammad Ali’s daughter, Laila Ali, in a match which the latter won. 

This was called the Ali-Frazier IV, given that the first three fights between their fathers had been iconic ones. Frazier also had a large family that included 11 children. In 1985 he divorced his wife Florence Smith, and then remained with Denise Menz, in a relationship that lasted for forty years, until his death.

This heavyweight former champion who was ranked among the ten greatest fighters in this category by the International Boxing Research Organization was also involved in other types of activities and ventures. Besides other things, he made a lot of cameo appearances in popular TV shows such as The Simpsons, and movies such as Rocky. 

Because of his generosity and naivete, Frazier also lost very large amounts of money in various business investments. While other former champions of his prestige were millionaires, that was not always the case for him. One of his daughters, Jackie Frazier-Lyde, who is a lawyer, worked on the former champion’s behalf to claim the money that he was owed for a large land deal. 

Unfortunately, in 2011, Frazier got the terrible news that he was diagnosed with liver cancer. The disease spread quickly, and he went to hospice care very soon after the time he found out, which was in September 2011. Soon after, in November 2011, he died in Philadelphia, in his home. 



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