Smokin' Joe Frazier: Toughness Personified

Derek CrouseContributor IIINovember 8, 2011

Tough as nails from childhood to death.
Tough as nails from childhood to death.Al Bello/Getty Images

With the passing of Joe Frazier, we have lost another athlete from the golden age of sports, particularly boxing. He passed away Monday at the age of 67 from the effects of a bout with liver cancer.

With boxing losing so much popularity from the massive appeal of Mixed Martial Arts, many have forgotten that boxing was an immense part of the landscape of sports years ago. Not since the Mike Tyson era have we embraced the sweet science as much as Ali vs. Frazier I, II, & III.

The golden era of boxing, which featured Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (to name a few), will never be duplicated. While Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather could add a little juice to the sport, it will always be shadowed by the closed circuit television spectacle of past gladiators.

Joe Frazier was one such gladiator.

Frazier has an interesting background. His father was a big boxing fan and loved to watch the likes of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson. His mother would sell drinks for a quarter when friends would congregate at the Frazier household to watch the black and white television.

Frazier was a naturally built kid who would be given lunch money by his classmates to protect them from bullies. His original heavy bag was just an old burlap sack filled with rags and tied to a tree.

Frazier suffered an injury that might have helped him fashion his boxing style down the road.

Joe was teasing the aggressive family hog one day and injured is left arm in a fall. The poverty-stricken family was not able to pay for a doctor, so it healed awkwardly and his signature left hook was created, as he could not stretch that arm fully ever again.

While Muhammad Ali declared Frazier an “Uncle Tom,” he was far from it; he was always doing hard labor on farms in South Carolina.

He had a tough road throughout his life, which benefited him immensely in the ring.

Frazier's style of boxing was the polar opposite of the smooth Ali. His stance was low and he always kept his arms close to his body, like a crab. He could take loads of punishment and manage to deal even more back to his opponent.

As an Olympic boxer, he devastated opponents with his left hook. Frazier fought in the final with a broken left thumb, which he told nobody about because he would have been disqualified. He sucked it up, soaked it in Epsom salts prior to the bout and won against a much bigger opponent. Most of his adversaries were taller than him, but that didn’t faze him at all.

If there wasn’t a Joe Frazier, there wouldn’t have been a Muhammad Ali, and vice versa.

When Frazier won the belt from George Foreman while Ali was suspended for not entering the draft, it fueled the debate about who was the real champ. The banter between the two was epic, and having Howard Cosell narrate their battles in and out of the ring only added to the hype.

Like the Lakers and Celtics, and the Cowboys and Steelers of yesteryear, without one there wouldn’t be the other.