by Rob G
In honour of the death of boxing legend Joe Frazier, ESPN Classic tonight is airing a lineup of fights dedicated to the boxer known as “Smokin” Joe. The five-fight tribute concludes with the infamous “Thrilla in Manila” bout between Muhammad Ali and Frazier from Manila, Philippines at 9:30 p.m. ET. (complete broadcast schedule below).
Frazier, the Hall of Fame heavyweight, passed away Monday at the age of 67 after a battle with liver cancer. He was the first man to defeat Muhammad Ali when the pair met in 1971. It was the first of three battles between the two pugilists. Frazier’s illustrious career included Olympic gold in 1964, and he held the WBA and WBC heavyweight world titles between 1970 and 1973. He is regarded as one of the 10 greatest heavyweights of all time.
Allow me to share a bit of perspective, growing up in the 1970s. Those younger than I might not understand how big a part boxing played in what writer Tom Wolfe called the “Me Decade”. Though the hippie movement of the 1960’s had dissipated, there was a hangover from that culture, as political awareness and social values continued to play a big role. There was an anti-war movement, a strong opposition to nuclear weapons, and the 70’s also saw the seeds being sewn for the environmentalist movement.
Today, boxing is on the decline, while MMA continues to gain traction. However, the latter isn’t as woven into the fabric of the times as boxing was in the 1960s and 1970s. With the backdrop of Martin Luther King leading the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, boxing played a large role in the sports world, led by the elite heavyweights Ali, Frazier, and George Foreman. Ali was the most controversial, crossing over to the mainstream in terms of public awareness. He was born Cassius Clay, but changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964, and later in the decade, he refused to be drafted into the military. He opposed the Vietnam War – “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong”. While Ali was one of the most famous athletes of that time, Frazier and Foreman played large roles in the boxing world, as well as in the Ali story.
But to look at it in another vein, I’m not sure many fathers and sons today would be able to tell you who won the latest MMA championship. I do know that back in what is known as the Golden Era of Boxing, most would be able to tell you who the heavyweight champ was.
Enjoy a great night of boxing.
Friday, Nov. 11, 2011
7 p.m. ET – Joe Frazier vs. Oscar Bonavena (1966)
8 p.m. ET – Joe Frazier vs. Jerry Quarry II (1974)
8:30 p.m. ET – Joe Frazier vs. Ron Stander (1972)
9 p.m. ET – Joe Frazier vs. George Foreman (1973)
9:30 p.m. ET – “Thrilla in Manilla” – Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (1975)