A funeral is held in Philadelphia for famed boxer "Smokin' Joe" Frazier
Muhammad Ali, Bernard Hopkins and Jesse Jackson are among those attending
Frazier died a week earlier, a month after being diagnosed with liver cancer
He staged several epic bouts with Ali and George Foreman
Boxing great Joe Frazier was laid to rest Monday in Philadelphia, one week after dying of liver cancer and four decades after capturing the world’s attention in an epic showdown with Muhammad Ali.
Ali was among those at Frazier’s private funeral at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, along with other boxing luminaries such as promoter Don King and current World Boxing Council champion Bernard Hopkins, video from CNN affiliate CSN Philly showed. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter were also in attendance.
A program for the service billed it as the “Homegoing Celebration of Joseph Frazier,” offering friends and family one last chance to pay their respects to the late 67-year-old athlete.
He died November 7, just a month after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
Over his career, the former two-time heavyweight champion became a legend in his own right and personified the gritty working-class style of his hard-knuckled adopted hometown, Philadelphia – the setting for the “Rocky” film series, starring Sylvester Stallone as hardscrabble boxer Rocky Balboa. Nutter earlier called Frazier the “quintessential Philadelphia boxer.”
“You could hear him coming, snorting and grunting and puffing, like a steam engine climbing a steep grade,” Bill Lyon wrote in a Philadelphia Inquirer column about Frazier, who was nicknamed “Smokin’ Joe.”
Frazier used his devastating left hook with impunity during his professional career, retiring with a 32-4-1 record.
Frazier bested Ali in 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 as the undisputed champ after handing Ali his first professional loss.
Ali won a 12-round decision in a January 1974, rematch, setting the stage for the classic “Thrilla in Manila” just outside of 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.
After that loss to Ali, Frazier was knocked out by George Foreman in June 1976. He came back for a fight in 1981, but then retired from competition. Yet he remained linked to the sport and his adopted hometown, running a well-known boxing gym in Philadelphia for years.