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Muhammad Ali leads the way as boxing world mourns Joe Frazier

In this March 8, 1971 file photo, boxer Joe Frazier (left) hits Muhammad Ali during their heavyweight title fight at New York.  

Muhammad Ali led the way as the boxing world on Tuesday mourned the death of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.

“The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones,” Ali said in a statement.

Frazier, who died late Monday at age 67 after being diagnosed with liver cancer a few weeks earlier, fought Ali in a trilogy of fights between 1971 and 1975 which have gone down in boxing history.

“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier handed Ali a first career defeat in the “Fight of the Century” in New York before losing the other two, the last another world title bout, the “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.

The charismatic Ali taunted Frazier on several occasions in their rivalry but the relationship reportedly improved in recent years.

Frazier lost only four of his 37 professional bouts, twice against Ali and twice against George Foreman.

Foreman was among those who paid tribute Tuesday, along with former British boxer Joe Bugner and the Klitschko brothers Vitali and Wladimir, the current heavyweight champions.

“Joe Frazier, for me, was the first champion I followed and studied,” said Foreman in the moving tribute on his website.

“Talk about Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Even me (George Foreman) but the fact is: There is only one Smoking Joe. The One and Only Joe Frazier.” Klitschko’s management issued a statement from Vitali on behalf of himself and his brother.

“My brother and I are deeply saddened by the death of Joe Frazier.

He was among the heavyweight greats. His three bouts with Muhammad Ali are without doubt sports history classics,” the statement said.

The Briton Bugner, who lost non-title fights in 1973 against Frazier and Ali, told the BBC: “Without him, other boxing heroes wouldn’t be great because they tested their talent against him.

“He definitely was legendary and he made a great contribution to boxing. I’m so sad for his family. Nobody likes to hear about great heroes passing on. It’s a very sad day for boxing.”

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 10:56:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/Muhammad-Ali-leads-the-way-as-boxing-world-mourns-Joe-Frazier/article13477668.ece

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