Lazzari’s Archives: Ode to “Smokin’ Joe” (1944-2011)

He was born in Carolina where his parents owned a farm,
The man became a boxer–and his fists could do some harm.
His name was Joseph Frazier–he was known as “Smokin’ Joe,”
He bobbed and weaved like crazy–and possessed a knockout blow.
He became a pro in ’65 and knocked out Woody Goss,
It wouldn’t be for YEARS until this man would notch a loss.
He decisioned Bonavena and would take apart Chuvalo,
He KO’d Ellis, became the champ–but bigger things would follow.
The year was 1971–it was held at MSG,
It was Ali vs. Frazier–“The Fight of the Century.”
Sinatra was at ringside and the audience was packed,
The fighters weren’t considered pals–a validated fact.
Muhammad was the talking-type, but Joe had ‘tunnel vision,’
He dropped Ali in round 15 and won a clear decision.
The champ would go to Kingston at the start of ’73,
To fight a man named Foreman–who was larger than a tree.
“Smokin’ Joe” was just too small–which pleased the Foreman camp,
“Down goes Frazier!” yelled Cosell, and George became the champ.
But Joe was far from quitting, he would fight Ali again,
One more time in NYC–a clash between these men.
Muhammad was the victor but no title was at stake,
There’d be another showdown–and lots more bucks to make.
Joe defeated Quarry and Jimmy Ellis once again,
Ali was now the champ–beating George in less than ten.
“Smokin’ Joe” was truly pumped for Ali/Frazier III,
A rubber match between these two–if both sides could agree.
It would happen in the Philippines–the final time they’d meet,
Staged so far away from home–and in oppressive heat.
Ali continued talking–calling Frazier a “gorilla,”
The fight would be promoted as the “Thrilla in Manila.”
Action-filled and brutal–yes, these two went toe-to-toe,
The crowd was cheering zealously with each and every blow.
After fourteen grueling rounds, Mr. Futch would stop the fight,
He knew his fighter–“Smokin’ Joe”–absorbed too much that night.
Joe continued fighting–but would never be the same,
Again KO’ed by Foreman; were the Ali fights to blame?
He’d retire a short time later–but came back in ’81,
Those who followed boxing KNEW that “Smokin’ Joe” was done.
Looking back on Joe’s career, he surely gave his all,
His courage was a major strength though he wasn’t very tall.
He lived in Ali’s shadow–but he came to grips with that,
He’d often joke about it as he wore his cowboy hat.
Truth be known, Ali and Joe, they made the fight game great,
They needed one another–becoming legends was their fate.
The years went by, he bought a gym, and tried his hand at singing,
I still recall the man’s left hook–which left opponents stinging.
He’d train a son named Marvis–they had limited success,
Why he took on Larry Holmes is anybody’s guess.
We lost this legend recently–he died of liver cancer,
He’s remembered as a brawler–and surely NOT a “dancer.”
I was saddened by his sickness–we all knew Joe might die,
I can picture Mr. Frazier now–he’s high above the sky.
The man is gone, he left his mark–he had a massive heart,
I know I never met you–but I liked you from the start.
A fighter and TRUE warrior—I’m so sad to see you go,
But I’ll always smile fondly when I think of “Smokin’ Joe.”

About the Author

Bob Lazzari

Bob Lazzari is an award-winning sports columnist for both Connecticut's Valley Times and NY Sports Day--where his "Sports Roundup" column is featured weekly. He is a member of the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance and host of "Monday Night Sports Talk" --a cable television show on CTV/Channel14 in Connecticut. A Fordham grad, Bob is a regular contributor to ESPN Radio's "Inside Yankee Baseball"; he can also be heard weekly every Tuesday morning on WXLM/104.7 FM in New London, CT. He has a popular blog where many of his past columns have been archived.

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