<
>

George Foreman remembers Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier, who died Monday night at age 67 after a short battle with liver cancer, is inextricably linked to Muhammad Ali because of their three epic fights. But there was also George Foreman, the other heavyweight among the era's big three.

Foreman lost the heavyweight title to Ali in the October 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire, but 1½ years earlier, on Jan. 22, 1973 at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, Foreman won the heavyweight championship from Frazier.

The bigger Foreman knocked down Frazier three times in the first round, and three more times in the second round -- prompting Howard Cosell's famous "Down goes Frazier!" cry -- to win the title for the first time.

As former champions, the fighters met again 3½ years later at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, with Foreman scoring a pair of knockdowns in the fifth round to stop Frazier. Foreman and Ali are the only men who ever defeated Frazier.

Over the years, Foreman and Frazier developed a friendship, and Foreman was understandably saddened by his friend's passing. Here is what Foreman had to say about Frazier on Tuesday:

"The term 'one and only' has been widely used to introduce many a celebrity, athlete and politician. Generally, they've appeared in print, TV or movies. With most of these folks, 'one and only' is the last definition they deserve.

"But this is not the case with 'Smokin'' Joe Frazier. Truly the one and only.

"Joe Frazier, for me, was the first champion I followed and studied. I wanted to fight him one day.

"With Joe, the first time we met, I extended my hand for a handshake. He held back his hand and said, 'George, meet my wife.' After I greeted his misses, he then said, 'Hello and nice to meet you, George,' with a firm handshake. Nothing weak in his game.

"Joe Frazier had journeyed from the southern part of the U.S.A. [South Carolina to Philadelphia], worked hard to provide for his wife and children, making sure they'd have a better life than the one he found so hard. They would get a good education and a chance to take part in the American dream, which meant no bowing down to any man, woman or child.

"Church and service to almighty God would be first in the family's life. Preaching to your kids is one thing, but example was another. Even his fighting style was his way of life. When the bell rings, he would not back up from King Kong! I know. I knocked Joe down six times in our first fight. When our fight was over, Joe was on his feet looking for me.

"If you were a man, you got a handshake. All women would get a personal 'yes, ma'am' from Joe. It didn't matter the color of your skin. If you wanted to be friends, you could. If you preferred not, Joe was willing to slam down anywhere, then a handshake after.

When his fellow man had mean a hurtful names for him, Joe got his band together and toured the world singing and dancing the Joe Frazier story. The world knows Joe Frazier did it his way.

"Talk about Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, even me. But the fact is, there is only one common, ordinary, everyday Joe, and he is 'The One and Only Joe Frazier.'"