Joe Frazier was the wrong man at the wrong time. He was a great fighter eclipsed by The Greatest. He ascended to the heavyweight time at a time when Muhammad Ali was in exile, and even after Frazier beat Ali in the Fight of the Century in March 1971 he came away somehow lessened.
Through force of personality, Ali became the People’s Champ. (And after he beat George Foreman, who’d beaten Frazier the year before, Ali was again the real champ.) But Ali was singularly unkind to the man who would be his greatest rival, calling him names that hurt Frazier almost until the day he died.
Smokin’ Joe wasn’t an intergalactic presence. He was simply a tough heavyweight from Philly who’d take five punches to swing the big left hook. His nemesis would, on a whim, uncork the Ali Shuffle or the Rope-a-Dope; Smokin’ Joe would duck his head and throw leather. He tried to be a singer, but the experiment