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Boxing great Joe Frazier in hospice with liver cancer

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:46 AM EST, Mon November 7, 2011
 Joe Frazier and Russian Vadim Yemelyanov fight in a semifinal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. Frazier went on to win gold. Joe Frazier and Russian Vadim Yemelyanov fight in a semifinal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. Frazier went on to win gold.
HIDE CAPTION
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
Joe Frazier: A Life in Pictures
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former heavyweight champion has liver cancer
  • He was recently diagnosed and is in a Philadelphia hospice
  • Frazier fought Muhammad Ali three times in the 1970s

Philadelphia (CNN) -- Boxing great Joe Frazier, who went toe to toe three times with Muhammad Ali, including the famous "Thrilla in Manila" fight, is seriously ill with liver cancer and is in a hospice, his personal and business manager said Saturday.

Frazier, 67, is in a Philadelphia facility, manager Leslie Wolff said. The former heavyweight champion was diagnosed just four or five weeks ago.

"He's a true gentleman," Wolff said. "Along with Muhammad Ali, (he is) one of the two most recognizable athletes in the world."

Frazier, nicknamed "Smokin' Joe," used his devastating left hook with impunity during his professional career, retiring with a 32-4-1 record.

Frazier, the son of a South Carolina sharecropper, boxed during the glory days of the heavyweight division, going up against greats George Foreman, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner and Jimmy Ellis.

But it was his three much-hyped fights against Ali that helped seal his legend.

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Frazier bested Ali at 1971's "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden. In the 15th round, Frazier landed perhaps the most famous left hook in history, catching Ali on the jaw and dropping the former champ for a four-count, according to Frazier's bio at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Frazier left the ring still the champ after handing Ali his first professional defeat.

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Ali won a 12-round decision in a January 1974 rematch, setting the stage for the classic "Thrilla in Manila" just outside the Philippine capital in 1975.

Ali took the early rounds, but Frazier rebounded before losing the last five rounds. By the end of the 14th, Frazier's eyes were nearly swollen shut, and his corner stopped the bout, according to the biography.

Later, Ali said, "It was the closest I've come to death."

Fans and well-wishers were encouraged to post their thoughts and prayers at joefrazierscorner.com.

CNN's Chuck Johnston contributed to this report.

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