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"It's a Thrilla"

Smokin' Joe Finally Takes Center Ring

HBO aires 'Thrilla in Manilla' as told through Frazier's eyes...

Listening to Joe Frazier talk about his legendary third bout against arch-rival Muhammad Ali on that sweltering morning in the Phillipines back in 1975, you get the impression that he's still upset about the controversial decision.

Many still contest the outcome, saying Frazier was the clear victor. However, the judges along with much of the world, saw things differently as they watched the two galant men battle together (nearly to the death) inside the humid capital city's Araneta Coliseum. "I really didn't watch the fight because I didn't like the way it finished," Frazier remarked when asked why he never bothered to watch the footage until now.

"God marks it down," Frazier

Beautiful evasion

This furiously paced contest between Frazier, the heavy-handed slugger with the devastating left hook and the ever kinetic Ali, ended with both combatants brutally battered and barely able to move about for days afterwards.

Frazier claims that he never forgave his trainer and cornerman, Eddie Futch, for stopping the fight at the end of the 14th round. With one of Frazier's eyes completely swollen shut by then, Futch made a rational choice to throw in the towl for his fighter. Meanwhile, Ali was suffering in his corner from all the intense punishment that Frazier had relentlessly inflicted to his body.

"It'll be a thriller, and a killer, and a chiller when I get that gorilla in Manilla," Ali

Ali making fun of Frazier with a toy gorilla

Fueled by Ali's "showboating" of repeated insults and verbal mockery towards Frazier all the way up to the bell as well as during the fight, their rivalry ensued for decades. This always frustrated Frazier who remembers defending Ali at a time when the charasmatic fighter was forced to relinquish his Championship Belt after refusing to register for the draft during the Vietnam War. At another time, Frazier claims he even loaned a down-and-out Ali some money to help him get by.

When asked why he'd be so generous to the man who once mocked him as a "gorilla" Frazier solemly replied in his trademark gravelly tone,"That's what being a M-A-N is about. I'm not like those new fighters where the man is down, you kick him around."

"We were the kind of guys that brought out the best in all the fights," Frazier

Playful Mockery

The last fight between Smokin' Joe Frazier and the always charismatic Ali is the subject of a new documentary called "Thrilla in Manila" making its debut on HBO, an in-depth look inside the backstory of a historical championship boxing match between the two icons. "Thrilla in Manilla" details Frazier's true first-hand accountings leading up to the vicious 1975 fight, including his views on Ali's over-the-top media personality and Frazier's own impoverished background, which some claim may have helped to split public opinons along social and racial lines among many Boxing fans at the time.

"Thrilla in Manilla" hits upon much of the well-hyped controversy surrounding the fight and its two colorful central rival charactors, while it effectively displays the contradictions in each of their personas. The documentary, directed by John Dower and narrated by Liev Schreiber, also depicts the contrasts between the very different circumstances of the two ex-champions today. Ali suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease, remains a beloved figure, while Frazier lives rather modestly in a backroom of the building where he's owned a gym, still exuberantly training young fighters, in Philadelphia.

"It's Been a Thrilla"

Joe standing over another fighter's body

"Sweat in the gym, don't bleed in the streets...was the motto of Frazier's Philadelphia gym"

On Saturday November 5, 2011, 67 year-old former Boxing Champ Joe Frazier was diagnosed with severe liver cancer and had been under closely monitored hospice care for the past few weeks.

Frazier's longtime personal business manager Leslie Wolff stated that the doctors had not yet determined how long the legendary boxer might be expected to live. "We have medical experts looking into all the options that are out there," Wolff reported. "There are very few. But, that does not mean we're going to stop looking."

Wolff also stated that Frazier had been in and out of a doctor's care since October. "We appreciate every prayer we can get. I've got everybody praying for him," Wolff said. "We'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope for a miracle."

Joe in his corner exhausted

In the "Fight of the Century" in 1971, Smokin' Joe Frazier was the first opponent to beat Muhammed Ali. The pair then went on to fight in two more glorious battles in the ring, including the historic "Thrilla in Manilla" where both boxer's claimed they gave the very best of themselves in the overwhelming heat of the capital city's arena. Joe lost both of these final epic confrontations with Ali.

For years, Frazier hated Ali for repeatedly taunting him during those competitive years. Joe still often felt the tinge of being somewhat overshadowed by his taller and more vocal adversary. More recently, Joe has publicly forgiven Ali for the way he had treated him.

Muhammed Ali has said on his battles with Frazier, "A real, real fighter; the toughest man in the world." On their famous encounter in Manilla, Ali claims that it was the closest to death he ever knew of.

Joe Ducking under Ali's punches

"You can't mention Ali without mentioning Joe Frazier," said former boxing writer Ed Schuyler Jr. "He beat Ali, don't forget that." Ali's former promoter, Bob Arum said he was saddened by Frazier's passing. "He was such an inspirational guy. A decent guy, a man of his word," said Arum. "I'm torn up by Joe dying at this relatively young age. I can't say enough about Joe."

Frazier won the Heavyweight Title in 1970 by a 5th Round win over boxer Jimmy Ellis. Frazier then successfully defended his Title four times before finally losing to George Foreman in 1973, who knocked him down six times in the first two Rounds.

Joe Ducking under Ali's punches

Smokin' Joe Frazier, regarded as one of the toughest boxer's ever to enter the ring with his devasting left-hook that ended many of his matches, is a true legend of the sport! Relentless against most of his opponents, Frazier combined rock-hard solid punches and focused determination to win by KO, forging himself into a truly repected boxing icon with a legion of worldwide fans in his corner.

Alas, after the final bell, his last battle was one he could not win...on Monday 11/7/2011, Joe Frazier died after a short bout with liver cancer.

Beloved around the world, Frazier will always be remembered as one of the greatest in the sport of boxing during a time that many die-hard fans refer to as the best of the Heavyweight era.

A Legend Tips his hat Goodbye, Rest in Peace Champ

R.I.P. Smokin' Joe!

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