Monday, November 7, 2011

Ave Atque Vale, Joe Frazier

"Oh, Brother, ripped away from me so cruelly, now at least take these last offerings..."
     - Gaius Valerius Catullus

Joe Frazier was referred to as "the slaughterhouse smasher" by the AP ahead of his decision loss in the 1964 Olympic Trials to Buster Mathis Sr., who out-weighed him by 100 lbs. 

It was a short phrase, likely written quickly and without much analysis, simply referring to his destructive style, and his job at a slaughterhouse. But it's perhaps an unintentional metaphor for exactly what he did in the ring, and what he made it look like in there. 

 From being one-half of one of the biggest, greatest and most important fights in the sport in the first go with Muhammad Ali, a bout an estimated 300 million people worldwide tuned in for; to rising twice from brutish salvos courtesy of Argentine Oscar Bonavena to seize a majority decision with constant, stifling pressure in front a 9,100-person pro-Bonavena crowd in their first of two; to Left Hook-apalooza 1969 between he and Jerry Quarry in their initial fight, a fight that earned that year's Ring Magazine Fight of the Year honors. He brought the pain throughout. 

And then there's "The Thrilla in Manila," the third and final meeting between he and Ali with their series tied at 1-1. It's one of the more wonderful, terrible and memorable spectacles in the sport, and even in being forced to stay in his corner prior to the 15th and final round, Joe punched his ticket to immortality by participating in another Fight of the Year. 

Did I mention he found out about cataracts in his left eye before even turning pro? 

Whether being groomed by gym manager Duke Dugent and trainer Yancey Durham, or refined and guided by Eddie Futch, Joe Frazier's mentality dictated that, between bells, he was to cripple opponents. 

This past September, Joe was diagnosed with liver cancer, and his health quickly deteriorated. Earlier this evening, he found one knockdown he simply couldn't rise from in losing his final battle. 

This planet is now short a true champion, and it owes us a few more to even attempt to atone for this unfortunate loss. 

Joseph William Frazier
1/12/1944 - 11/7/2011


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