Joe Frazier: Remembering the 5 Greatest Moments in Boxing Legend's Career

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer INovember 7, 2011

Joe Frazier: Remembering the 5 Greatest Moments in Boxing Legend's Career

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    Joe Frazier is considered one of the greatest boxers who ever lived, a man with a 32-4-1 career record and a devastating left hook who fought some of the true greats of the sport, including Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

    Of his 32 victories, 27 came via knockout.

    His final fight with Ali, dubbed "The Thrilla in Manila," was a testament to his will power and heart and Ali would later claim that it was the closest to dying he'd ever been.

    Frazier, who became a symbol of the pro-war movement during his career, has also become a symbol of determination and never giving up for many people.

    And, now, as he battles liver cancer at the age of 67 under hospice care, he fights his greatest fight.

    There are so many great moments in the legend's career it's hard to keep track.

    Here are the five greatest moments in Smokin' Joe's career.

5. Loses Title to George Foreman

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    You don't usually characterize losing a title fight as a great moment in a boxer's career, but his showdown with George Foreman in 1973 was defined by many as one of the most memorable moments in boxing's annals.

    It was HBO Boxing's first broadcast ever and became known for Howard Cosell's famous line, "Down goes Frazier!"

    Frazier's upset loss to Foreman was a heartbreaker. He was knocked down six times in the first two rounds before the referee called the bout in Round 2. Nonetheless, the bout was a part of him.

    The fight was sandwiched between "The Fight of the Century" and "Ali vs. Frazier II" and marked the beginning of a string of spectacular fights for the legend.

4. Ali vs Frazier II

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    After defeating Muhammad Ali in "The Fight of the Century" in 1971, Joe Frazier was challenged by Ali in 1974 for the rights to the heavyweight title.

    While the second fight between the two was considered by many to be the least interesting in the trilogy, it nonetheless marked a changing of the guard, as Ali captured Frazier's title and handed the heavyweight the second loss of his career (the first being against Foreman).

    It was, like all their fights, a brutal affair, complete with heavy punches and the unbelievable ability of both fighters to take these punches.

    It cemented the rivalry, as Ali won via unanimous decision after 12 rounds.

3. Fight of the Century

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    "The Fight of the Century" was one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history and it took a whole four years for it to come to fruition.

    After Muhammad Ali refused to join the Army in 1967, he was stripped of his title and barred from fighting for three years.

    Upon Ali's return, the wheels were set in motion between the two giants, with Ali a symbol of anti-establishment and Frazier a symbol for the pro-war movement.

    And after all the buildup, the fight delivered in spectacular fashion.

    It was a battle of speed and agility vs. brute power, and it lasted the full 15 rounds. Until the end of the 11th round, both fighters were neck-and-neck, but late in the 11th Frazier caught Ali with his patented left hook and nearly floored him, sending him against the ropes.

    For the remaining four rounds, Frazier caught Ali with several huge blows, but Ali was able to make it to the end of the fight before Frazier ultimately won.

    It was the beginning of a spectacular rivalry.

2. Thrilla in Manila

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    Considered by many to be the greatest of the Ali-Frazier fights, "Thrilla in Manila" was the third and final battle between Frazier and his nemesis, held in 1975 in the Philippines.

    The fight is widely ranked as one of the greatest bouts in boxing history, and ESPN's SportsCentury dubbed it the fifth-greatest sporting event of the 20th century in 1999.

    "Thrilla in Manila" lasted 14 rounds and may have been the greatest fight of Frazier's life considering he was supposed to be headed for retirement and washed up at that point.

    It was a brutal, punishing fight, with both fighters exchanging huge blows throughout. Frazier appeared to be sending Ali to defeat in the middle rounds, but Ali was able to withstand the punishment and push the bout to the later rounds, which ultimately turned the tide in his favor.

    By the time the 11th round was over, Frazier's eyes had swollen up so bad that he could barely see. But he pushed on, undeterred, for another three rounds of abuse before trainer Eddie Futch decided to end it before the 15th, saying, "It's all over. No one will forget what you did here today."

    And no one ever will.

    Perhaps what was so ironic about Frazier's career was he finished with a 32-4-1 record, but it was his loss to Ali in "Thrilla in Manila" that stood the test of time.

1. Feud with Ali

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    Muhammad Ali was known for going after Frazier throughout Frazier's career, taunting him repeatedly and painting him as the white man's hope and as an "Uncle Tom."

    Frazier was the more conservative and less talkative of the two, but his dislike of Ali and his demeanor was loud and clear.

    It took until 2009 for Frazier to publicly come out and say he held no grudges over Ali, captured in the May issue of Sports Illustrated.

    Amid all the legendary battles, all the pre-fight hype, Frazier's feud with Ali transcended everything and took on a whole new life of its own.