Frazier emerged as the top contender in the late 1960s, defeating opponents that included Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis, Eddie Machen, Doug Jones, George Chuvalo, and Jimmy Ellis en route to becoming undisputed heavyweight champion in 1970, and followed up by defeating Muhammad Ali by unanimous decision in the highly anticipated Fight of the Century in 1971. Two years later Frazier lost his title when he was defeated by George Foreman. He fought on, beating Joe Bugner, losing a rematch to Ali and beating Quarry and Ellis again.
Frazier's last world title challenge came in 1975, but he was beaten by Ali in their brutal rubbermatch, the Thrilla in Manila. He retired in 1976 following a second loss to Foreman. He made a comeback in 1981, fighting just once, before retiring. The International Boxing Research Organization rates Frazier among the ten greatest heavyweights of all time. In 1999, The Ring magazine ranked him the eighth greatest heavyweight. He is an inductee of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Frazier's style was often compared to that of Henry Armstrong and occasionally Rocky Marciano, dependent on bobbing, weaving and relentless pressure to wear down his opponents. His best known punch was a powerful left hook, which accounted for most of his knockouts. In his career he lost to only two fighters, both former Olympic and world heavyweight champions: twice to Muhammad Ali, and twice to George Foreman.
After retiring, Frazier made cameo appearances in several Hollywood movies, and two episodes of The Simpsons. His son Marvis became a boxer—trained by Frazier himself—but was unable to match his father's success. His daughter Jackie Frazier-Lyde also boxed professionally. Frazier continued to train fighters in his gym in Philadelphia. His later years saw periodic insults and bitter feelings towards Ali, interspersed with brief reconciliations.
Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer in late September 2011 and admitted to hospice care. He died of complications from the disease on November 7, 2011.
Joe Frazier was the 12th child born to Dolly Alston-Frazier and Rubin in Beaufort, South Carolina. He was raised in a rural community of Beaufort called Laurel Bay. Frazier said he was always close to his father, who carried him when he was a toddler "over the 10 acres of farmland" the Fraziers worked as sharecroppers "to the still where he made his bootleg corn liquor, and into town on Saturdays to buy the necessities that a family of 10 needed." Young Frazier was affectionately called "Billie Boy."
Rubin Frazier had his left hand burned and part of his forearm amputated in a tractor accident the year his son was born. Rubin Frazier and his wife Dolly had been in their car when Arthur Smith, who was drunk, passed by and made a move for Dolly but was rebuffed. Stefan Gallucci, a local barkeep, recounted the experience. When the Fraziers drove away Smith fired at them several times, hitting Dolly in the foot and Rubin several times in his arm. Smith was convicted and sent to prison, but did not stay long. Dolly Frazier said, "If you were a good workman, the white man took you out of jail and kept you busy on the farm."
Frazier's parents worked their farm with two mules, named Buck and Jenny. The farmland was what country people called "white dirt, which is another way of saying it isn't worth a damn." They could not grow peas or corn on it, only cotton and watermelons.
In the early 1950s, Frazier's father bought a black and white television. The family and others nearby came to watch boxing matches on it. Frazier's mother sold drinks for a quarter as they watched boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, Willie Pep and Rocky Graziano. One night Frazier's Uncle Israel noticed his stocky build. "That boy there...that boy is gonna be another Joe Louis" he remarked. The words made an impression on Joe. His classmates at school would give him a sandwich or a quarter to walk with them at final bell so that bullies would not bother them. Frazier said, "Any 'scamboogah' (a disrespectful, low-down and foul person) who got in my face would soon regret it; Billie Boy could kick anybody's ass." The day after his Uncle's comment, Frazier filled old burlap sack with rags, corncobs, a brick, and Spanish moss. He hung the makeshift heavybag from an oak tree in the backyard. "For the next 6, 7 years, damn near every day I'd hit that heavybag for an hour at a time. I'd wrap my hands with a necktie of my Daddy's, or a stocking of my Momma's or sister's, and get to it" Joe remarked.
Not long after Frazier started working, his left arm was seriously injured while he was running from the family's 300 pound hog. One day Frazier poked the hog with a stick and ran away. The gate to the pigpen was open, however, and the hog chased him. Frazier fell and hit his left arm on a brick. His arm was torn badly, but as the family could not afford a doctor, the arm had to heal on its own. Joe was never able to keep it fully straight again.
By the time Frazier was 15 years old, he was working on a farm for a family named Bellamy. They were both white men: Mac, who was the younger of the two and more easy going, and Jim, who was a little rougher and somewhat backward. One day a little black boy of about 12 years old accidentally damaged one of the Bellamys' tractors. Jim Bellamy became so enraged he took off his belt and whipped the boy with his belt right there in the field. Joe saw the event and went back to the packing house on the farm and told his black friends what he had seen. It wasn't long before Jim Bellamy saw Joe and asked him why he told what he had witnessed. Joe then told Bellamy he didn't know what he was talking about, but Bellamy didn't believe Joe and told Joe to get off the farm before he took off his belt again. Joe told him he better keep his pants up because he wasn't going to use his belt on him. Jim then analyzed Joe for a bit and eventually said "Go on, get the hell outta here." Joe knew from that moment it was time for him to leave Beaufort; he could only see hard times and low-rent for himself. Even his Momma could see it. She told Joe "Son, if you can't get along with the white folks, then leave home because I don't want anything to happen to you."
The train fare from Beaufort to the cities up North was costly, and the closest bus-stop was in Charleston, 75 miles (121 km) away. Luckily by 1958, the bus (The Dog, as called by locals in Beaufort) had finally made Beaufort a stop on its South Carolina route. Joe had a brother, Tommy, in New York. He was told he could stay with Tommy and his family. Joe had to save up a bit before he could make the bus trip to New York and still have some money in his pocket, and so first he went to work at the local Coca-Cola plant. Joe remarked that the white guy would drive the truck and he would do the real work, stacking and unloading the crates. Joe stayed with Coca-Cola until the government began building houses for the Marines stationed at Parris Island, at which time he was hired on a work crew.
Nine months eventually passed since he got the boot from the Bellamy farm. One day, with no fanfare, no tearful goodbyes, Joe packed quickly and got the first bus heading northward. He finally settled in Philadelphia, "I climbed on the Dog's back and rode through the night" Joe remarked. "It was 1959, I was 15 years old and I was on my own."
During Frazier's amateur career, he won Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championships in 1962, 1963 and 1964. His only loss in three years as an amateur was to Buster Mathis. Mathis would prove to be Joe's biggest obstacle to making the 1964 U.S. Olympic Boxing team. They met in the final of the U.S. Olympic Trial at the New York World's Fair in the summer of 1964. Their fight was scheduled for three rounds and they fought with 10 oz gloves and with headgear, even though the boxers who made it to Tokyo would wear no headgear and would wear 8 oz gloves. Joe was eager to get back at Mathis for his only amateur loss and KO'd two opponents to get to the finals. But once again, when the dust settled, the judges had called it for Mathis, undeservedly Joe thought. "All that fat boy had done was run like a thief- hit me with a peck and backpedal like crazy." Joe would remark.
Mathis had worn his trunks very high, so that when Joe hit Mathis with legitimate body shots the referee took a dim view of them. In the second round, the referee had gone so far as to penalize Joe two points for hitting below the belt. "In a three-round bout a man can't afford a points deduction like that," Joe would say. Joe then returned to Philadelphia feeling as low as he'd ever been and was even thinking of giving up boxing. Duke Dugent and his trainer Yank Durham were able to talk Joe out of his doldrums and even suggested Joe make the trip to Tokyo as an alternate, in case something happened to Mathis. Joe agreed and while there, he was a workhorse, sparring with any of the Olympic boxers who wanted some action. "Middleweight, light heavyweight, it didn't matter to me, I got in there and boxed all comers" Joe would say. In contrast, Mathis was slacking off. In the morning, when the Olympic team would do their roadwork, Mathis would run a mile, then start walking saying "Go ahead, big Joe. I'll catch up." His amateur record was 38–2.
In 1964 heavyweight representative Buster Mathis qualified but was injured so Frazier was sent as a replacement. At the Heavyweight boxing event, Frazier knocked out George Oywello of Uganda in the first round, then knocked out Athol McQueen of Australia 40 seconds into the third round. He was then into the semi-final, as the only American boxer left, facing the 6 foot 2, 214 lb. Vadim Yemelyanov of the Soviet Union.
"My left hook was a heat-seeking missile, careening off his face and body time and again. Twice in the second round I knocked him to the canvas. But as I pounded away, I felt a jolt of pain shoot through my left arm. Oh damn, the thumb." Joe would say. Joe knew immediately the thumb of his left hand was damaged, though he wasn't sure as to the extent. "In the midst of the fight, with your adrenaline pumping, it's hard to gauge such things. My mind was on more important matters. Like how I was going to deal with Yemelyanov for the rest of the fight." The match ended when the Soviet's handlers threw in the towel at 1:49 in the second round, and the referee raised Joe's injured hand in victory.
Now that Joe was into the final, he didn't mention his broken thumb to anyone. He went back to his room and soaked his thumb in hot water and Epsom salts. "Pain or not, Joe Frazier of Beaufort, South Carolina, was going for gold." Joe proclaimed. Joe would fight a 30-year-old German mechanic named Hans Huber, who failed to make it on the German Olympic wrestling team. By now Joe was used to fighting bigger guys, but he was not used to doing it with a damaged left hand. When the opening bell sounded on fight night, Joe came out and started swinging punches, he threw his right hand more than usual that night. Every so often he'd used his left hook, but nothing landed with the kind of impact he managed in previous bouts. Under Olympic rules, 5 judges judge a bout, and that night three voted for Joe.
After Frazier won the USA's only 1964 Olympic boxing gold medal, his trainer Yancey "Yank" Durham helped put together Cloverlay, a group of local businessmen (including a young Larry Merchant) who invested in Frazier's professional career and allowed him to train full-time. Durham was Frazier's chief trainer and manager until Durham's death in August 1973.
Frazier turned professional in 1965, defeating Woody Goss by a technical knockout in the first round. He won three more fights that year, all by knockout, none going past the third round. Later that year, he was in a training accident, where he suffered an injury which left him legally blind in his left eye. During pre-fight physicals, after reading the eye chart with his right eye, when prompted to cover his other eye, Frazier switched hands, but covered his left eye for a second time, and state athletic commission physicians seemed to not notice or act.
Joe's second contest was of interest in that he was decked in round 1 by Mike Bruce. Frazier took an "8" count by referee Bob Polis but rallied for a TKO over Bruce in round 3.
In 1966, as Frazier's career was taking off, Durham contacted Los Angeles trainer Eddie Futch. The two men had never met, but Durham had heard of Futch through the latter's reputation as one of the most respected trainers in boxing. Frazier was sent to Los Angeles to train, before Futch agreed to join Durham as an assistant trainer. With Futch's assistance, Durham arranged three fights in Los Angeles against journeyman Al Jones, veteran contender Eddie Machen and George "Scrap Iron" Johnson. Frazier knocked out Jones and Machen, but surprisingly went 10 rounds with journeyman Johnson to win a unanimous decision. Johnson had apparently bet all his purse that he'd survive to the final bell, noted Ring Magazine, and somehow he achieved it. But Johnson was known in the trade as "impossibly durable".
After the Johnson match, Futch became a full-fledged member of the Frazier camp as an assistant trainer and strategist, who advised Durham on matchmaking. It was Futch who suggested that Frazier boycott the 1967 WBA Heavyweight Elimination Tournament to find a successor to Muhammad Ali after the Heavyweight Champion was stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the military, although Frazier was the top-ranked contender at the time.
Futch proved invaluable to Frazier as an assistant trainer, helping modify his style. Under his tutelage, Frazier adopted the bob-and-weave defensive style, making him more difficult for taller opponents to punch, while giving Frazier more power with his own punches. While Futch remained based in Los Angeles, where he worked as a supervisor with the U.S. Postal Service, he was flown to Philadelphia to work with Frazier during the final preparations for all of his fights.
After Durham died of a stroke on August 30, 1973, Futch was asked to succeed him as Frazier's head trainer and manager—at the same time he was training heavyweight contender Ken Norton. Norton lost a rematch against Ali less than two weeks after Durham's death. At that point, Norton's managers, Robert Biron and Aaron Rivkind, demanded that Futch choose between training Frazier and Norton, with Futch choosing Frazier.
Now in his second year, in September 1966 and somewhat green, Frazier won a close decision over rugged contender Oscar Bonavena, despite Bonavena flooring him twice in the second round. A third knockdown in that round would have ended the fight under the three knockdown rule. Frazier rallied and won a decision after 12 rounds. The Machen win followed this contest.
In 1967 Frazier stormed ahead winning all six of his fights, including a sixth-round knockout of Doug Jones and a brutal fourth round (TKO) of Canadian George Chuvalo. No boxer had ever stopped Chuvalo before, although Frazier, despite the stoppage, was unable to floor Chuvalo, who would never be dropped in his entire career despite him fighting countless top names.
By February 1967 Joe had scored 14 wins and his star was beginning to rise. This culminated with his first appearance on the cover of Ring Magazine. In this month he met Ali, who hadn't yet been stripped of his title. Ali said Joe would never stand a chance of "whipping" him, not even in his wildest dreams. Later that year, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world heavyweight title due to his refusal to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War.
To fill the vacancy, the New York State Athletic Commission held a bout between Frazier and Buster Mathis, both undefeated going into the match, with the winner to be recognized as "World Champion" by the state of New York. Although the fight was not recognized as a World Championship bout by some, Frazier won by a knockout in the 11th round and staked a claim to the Heavyweight Championship. He then defended his claim by beating hard hitting prospect Manuel Ramos of Mexico in two rounds.
He closed 1968 by again beating Oscar Bonavena via a 15-round decision in a hard-fought rematch. Bonavena fought somewhat defensively, allowing himself to be often bulled to the ropes, which let Frazier build a wide points margin. Ring Magazine showed Bonavena afterwards with a gruesomely bruised face. It had been a punishing match.
1969 saw Frazier defend his NYSAC title in Texas, beating Dave Zyglewicz, who'd only lost once in 29 fights, by a first-round knockout. Then he beat Jerry Quarry in a 7th round stoppage. The competitive, exciting match with Quarry was named 1969 Ring Magazine fight of the year. Frazier showed he could do a lot more than just slug. He'd used his newly honed defensive skills to slip, bob and weave a barrage of Quarry punches despite Quarry's reputation as an excellent counter punching heavyweight.
On February 16, 1970, Frazier faced WBA Champion Jimmy Ellis at Madison Square Garden. Ellis had outpointed Jerry Quarry in the final bout of the WBA elimination tournament for Ali's vacated belt. Frazier had himself declined to participate in the WBA tournament to protest their decision to strip Ali. Ellis held an impressive win over Oscar Bonavena among others. Beforehand, Ali had announced his retirement and relinquished the Heavyweight title, allowing Ellis and Frazier to fight for the undisputed title. Frazier won by a TKO when Ellis's trainer Angelo Dundee would not let him come out for the 5th round following two 4th round knockdowns (the first knockdowns of Ellis's career). Frazier's decisive win over Ellis was a frightening display of power and tenacity.
In his first title defense, Frazier traveled to Detroit to fight World Light Heavyweight Champion Bob Foster, who would go on to set a record for the number of title defenses in the light-heavyweight division. Frazier (26–0) retained his title by twice flooring the hard punching Foster in the second round. The second knock down came on a devastating left hook and Foster could not beat the count. Then came what was hyped as the "Fight Of The Century," his first fight with Muhammad Ali, who had launched a comeback in 1970 after a three-year suspension from boxing. This would be the first meeting of two undefeated heavyweight champions (and last until Mike Tyson faced Michael Spinks in 1988), since Ali (31–0) had not lost his title in the ring, but rather been stripped because of his refusal to be conscripted into the Armed Forces, some considered him to be the true champion. This fight was to crown the one, true heavyweight champion.
On March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden, Frazier and Ali met in the first of their three bouts which was called the "Fight of the Century" in pre-bout publicity and by the press. With an international television audience and an in-house audience that included luminaries Frank Sinatra (as a photographer for Life magazine to get a ringside seat), comedian Woody Allen, singer Diana Ross and actors Dustin Hoffman and Burt Lancaster (who served as "color commentator" with fight announcer Don Dunphy), the two undefeated heavyweights met in a media-frenzied atmosphere reminiscent of Joe Louis' youth.
Several factors came together for Frazier in this fight. He was 27 years old and at his boxing peak physically and mentally, Ali, 29, was coming back from a three-year absence but had kept active. He had had two good wins, including a bruising battle with Oscar Bonavena, whom Ali had defeated by a TKO in 15 rounds. Frazier worked on strategy with coach Eddie Futch. They noted Ali's tendency to throw a right-hand uppercut from a straight standing position after dropping the hand in preparation to throw it with force. Futch instructed Frazier to watch Ali's right hand and, at the moment Ali dropped it, to throw a left hook at the spot where they knew Ali's face would be a second later. Frazier staggered Ali in the 11th round and knocked down Ali in the 15th in this way.
In a brutal and competitive contest, Frazier lost the first two rounds but was able to withstand Ali's combinations. Frazier was known to improve in middle rounds, and this was the case with Ali. Frazier came on strong after round three, landing hard shots to the body and powerful left hooks to the head.
Ultimately, Frazier won a 15-round, unanimous decision (9–6, 11–4, and 9–6). Ali was taken to hospital immediately after the fight to check that his severely swollen right side jaw (which was apparent in post-fight interviews) wasn't actually broken. Frazier also spent time in hospital during the ensuing month, the exertions of the fight having been exacerbated by hypertension and a kidney infection.
Later in the year he fought a 3-round exhibition against hard hitting veteran contender Cleveland Williams.
In 1972, Frazier successfully defended the title twice, beating Terry Daniels and Ron Stander, both by knockout, in the fourth and fifth rounds respectively. Daniels had earlier drawn with Jerry Quarry and Stander had knocked out Earnie Shavers.
Frazier lost his undefeated record of 29–0 and his world championship, at the hands of the unbeaten George Foreman on January 22, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica. Despite Frazier being the overall favorite, Foreman towered 10 cm (4 inches) over the more compact champion and dominated from the start. Two minutes into the first round, Foreman knocked Frazier down for the first time. After he was knocked down a sixth time in the second round referee Arthur Mercante, Sr. stopped the contest.
Frazier won his next fight, a 12-round decision over Joe Bugner, in London to begin his quest to regain the title.
Frazier's second fight against Ali took place on January 28, 1974, in New York City. In contrast to their previous meeting, the bout was a non-title fight, with Ali winning a 12-round unanimous decision. The fight was notable for the amount of clinching.
Five months later, Frazier again battled Jerry Quarry in Madison Square Garden, with a strong left hook to the ribs by Frazier ending the fight in the fifth round.
In March 1975, Frazier fought a rematch with Jimmy Ellis in Melbourne, Australia, knocking him out in nine rounds. The win again established Frazier as the number one heavyweight challenger for the title, which Ali had won from George Foreman in the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" five months earlier.
Ali and Frazier met for the third and final time in Quezon City (a district within the metropolitan area of Manila), the Philippines, on October 1, 1975: the "Thrilla in Manila". Prior to the fight, Ali took opportunities to mock Frazier by calling him a '"gorilla", and generally trying to irritate him.
The fight was a punishing display on both sides under oppressively hot conditions. During the fight, Ali said to Frazier, "They said you were through, Joe." Frazier said, "They lied." After 14 grueling rounds, Futch stopped the fight with Frazier having a closed left eye, an almost-closed right eye and a cut. Ali later said that it was the "closest thing to dying that I know of.". In 1977, Ali told interviewer Reg Gutteridge that he felt this third Frazier fight was his best performance. When Gutteridge suggested his win over Cleveland Williams, Ali said, "No, Frazier's much tougher and rougher than Cleveland Williams".
In 1976, Frazier (32–3) fought George Foreman for a second time. With a shaved head for a new image Frazier fought well enough, somewhat more restrained than usual, avoiding walking onto the big shots which he had done in their first match. However, Foreman awaited his moment and then lobbed in a tremendous left hook that lifted Frazier off his feet. After a second knock down it was stopped in the fifth. Shortly after the fight, Frazier announced his retirement.
Frazier made a cameo appearance in the movie Rocky later in 1976 and dedicated himself to training local boxers in Philadelphia, where he grew up, including some of his own children. He also helped train Duane Bobick.
In 1981, Frazier attempted a comeback. He drew over 10 rounds with hulking Floyd "Jumbo" Cummings in Chicago, Illinois. It was a bruising battle with mixed reviews. He then retired for good.
After that, Frazier involved himself in various endeavors. Among his sons who turned to boxing as a career, he helped train Marvis Frazier, a challenger for Larry Holmes's world heavyweight title and trained his daughter, Jackie Frazier-Lyde, whose most notable fight to date was a close points loss against Laila Ali, the daughter of his rival.
Frazier's overall record was 32 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw, with 27 wins by knockout. He won 73 percent of his fights by knockout, compared to 60 percent for Ali and 84 percent for Foreman. He was a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.
In 1984, Frazier was the special referee for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship match between Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes at Starrcade '84, awarding the match to Flair due to Rhodes' excessive bleeding.
In 1986, Frazier appeared as the "corner man" for Mr. T against Roddy Piper at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum as part of WrestleMania 2. In 1989, Frazier joined Ali, Foreman, Norton and Holmes for the tribute special Champions Forever.
Frazier appeared as himself in an episode of The Simpsons - "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" in 1992, in which he was supposed to have been beaten up by Barney Gumble in Moe's Tavern. Frazier's son objected; so, Frazier was instead shown beating up Gumble and putting him in a trash can. Frazier appeared in another episode of The Simpsons - "Homer's Paternity Coot" in 2006. He appeared on-screen in the 8th series of The Celebrity Apprentice (USA) television show as a guest-attendee at a Silent Auction event held for the season finale (won by Joan Rivers). Frazier appeared as himself in the Academy Award-winning 1976 movie, Rocky. Since the debut of the Fight Night series of games made by EA Sports, Frazier appeared in Fight Night 2004, Fight Night Round 2, Fight Night Round 3, Fight Night Round 4 and Fight Night Champion.
Frazier released his autobiography in March 1996, entitled Smokin' Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin' Joe Frazier. Frazier promoted the book with a memorable appearance on The Howard Stern Show on January 23, 1996.
He also wrote Box like the Pros, "a complete introduction to the sport, including the game's history, rules of the ring, how fights are scored, how to spar, the basics of defence and offence, the fighter's workout, a directory of boxing gyms, and much more. Box Like the Pros is an instruction manual, a historical reference tool and an insider's guide to the world's most controversial sport."
According to an article from The New York Times, "over the years, Frazier has lost a fortune through a combination of his own generosity and naïveté, his carousing, and failed business opportunities. The other headliners from his fighting days—Ali, George Foreman, and Larry Holmes—are millionaires." Asked about his situation, Frazier became playfully defensive, but would not reveal his financial status. "Are you asking me how much money I have?" he said. "I got plenty of money. I got a stack of $100 bills rolled up over there in the back of the room." Frazier blamed himself, partly, for not effectively promoting his own image. In a 2006 HBO documentary on the fight in Manila, Frazier was interviewed living in a one-room apartment on the second floor of his gym.
His daughter Jackie Frazier-Lyde is a lawyer and worked on her father's behalf in pursuit of money they claimed he was owed in a Pennsylvania land deal. In 1973, Frazier purchased 140 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for $843,000. Five years later, a developer agreed to buy the farmland for $1.8 million. Frazier received annual payments from a trust that bought the land with money he had earned in the ring. However, when the trust went bankrupt, the payments ceased.
Frazier sued his business partners, insisting his signature had been forged on documents and he had no knowledge of the sale. In the ensuing years, the 140 acres was subdivided and turned into a residential community. The land is now worth an estimated $100 million.
Frazier and Ali were friends. During Ali's enforced three-year lay-off from boxing for refusing to be drafted into the US Army, Frazier lent him money, testified before Congress and petitioned U.S. President Richard Nixon to have Ali's right to box reinstated. Frazier supported Ali's right not to serve in the army, saying "If Baptists weren't allowed to fight, I wouldn't fight either."
However, in the build-up to their first fight, The Fight of the Century, Ali turned it into a "cultural and political referendum", painting himself as a revolutionary and civil rights champion and Frazier as the white man's hope, an "Uncle Tom" and a pawn of the white establishment. Ali successfully turned many black Americans against Frazier. Bryant Gumbel joined the pro-Ali, anti-Frazier bandwagon by writing a major magazine article that asked "Is Joe Frazier a white champion with black skin?" Frazier thought this was "a cynical attempt by Clay to make me feel isolated from my own people. He thought that would weaken me when it came time to face him in that ring. Well, he was wrong. It didn't weaken me, it awakened me to what a cheap-shot son of a bitch he was." He noted the hypocrisy of Ali calling him an Uncle Tom when his [Ali's] trainer (Angelo Dundee) was white.
As a result of Ali's campaign, Frazier's children were bullied at school and his family were given police protection after receiving death threats. Ali declared that if Frazier won he would crawl across the ring and admit that Frazier was the greatest. After Frazier won by a unanimous decision, he called upon Ali to fulfill his promise and crawl across the ring, but he didn't. Ali called it a "white man's decision" and insisted that he won.
During a televised joint interview prior to their second bout in 1974, Ali continued to insult Frazier, who took exception to Ali calling him "ignorant" and challenged him to a fight, which resulted in the two of them brawling on the studio floor. Ali went on to win the 12 round non-title affair by a decision. Ali took things further in the build-up to their last fight, The Thrilla in Manila, and called Frazier "the other type of negro" and "ugly", "dumb" and a "gorilla" At one point he sparred with a man in a gorilla suit and pounded on a rubber gorilla doll, saying "This is Joe Frazier's conscience... I keep it everywhere I go. This is the way he looks when you hit him." According to the fight's promoter Don King, this enraged Frazier, who took it as a "character assassination" and "personal invective". One night before the fight, Ali waved around a toy pistol outside Frazier's hotel room. When Frazier came to the balcony, he pointed the gun at Frazier and yelled "I am going to shoot you." After the fight, Ali summoned Frazier's son Marvis into his dressing room, and told him that he had not meant what he had said about his father. When informed of this by Marvis, Frazier responded: "you ain't me, son. Why isn't he apologizing to me?"
For years afterwards, Frazier retained his bitterness towards Ali and suggested that Ali's battle with Parkinson's syndrome was a form of divine retribution for his earlier behavior. In 2001, Ali apologized to Frazier via a New York Times article, saying "In a way, Joe's right. I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment that I shouldn't have said. Called him names I shouldn't have called him. I apologize for that. I'm sorry. It was all meant to promote the fight". Frazier reportedly "embraced it", though he later retorted that Ali only apologized to a newspaper, not to him. He said: "I'm still waiting [for him] to say it to me." To this Ali responded: "If you see Frazier, you tell him he's still a gorilla."
Frazier told Sports Illustrated in May 2009 that he no longer held hard feelings for Ali. After Frazier's death in November 2011, Ali was among those who attended the private funeral services for Frazier in Philadelphia. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who spoke during the service, asked those in attendance to stand and "show your love" and reportedly Ali stood with the audience and clapped "vigorously".
Frazier lived in Philadelphia where he owned and managed a boxing gym. Frazier put the gym up for sale in mid-2009. He was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. He and his nemesis, Muhammad Ali, alternated over the years between public apologies and public insults. In 1996, when Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta, Frazier told a reporter that he would like to throw Ali into the fire. Frazier made millions of dollars in the 1970s, but the article cited mismanagement of real-estate holdings as a partial explanation for his economic woes. Frazier stated repeatedly that he no longer had any bitter feelings towards Ali. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Joe Frazier's Gym in its 25th list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2012. In 2013, the gym was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Frazier continued to train young fighters, although he needed multiple operations for back injuries sustained in a car accident. He and Ali reportedly attempted a reconciliation in his final years, but in October 2006 Frazier still claimed to have won all three bouts between the two. He declared to a Times reporter, when questioned about his bitterness toward Ali, "I am what I am."
Frazier attempted to revive his music interests in late 2009/2010. Notably popular for singing 'Mustang Sally,' both Frazier and manager Leslie R. Wolff teamed up with Welsh Rock Solo artist Jayce Lewis to release his repertoire in the U.K., later visiting the Welshman in U.K. to host a string of after dinner speeches and music developments. It would notably be Frazier's last U.K. appearance.
Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer in late September 2011. By November 2011, he was under hospice care, where he died on November 7. Upon hearing of Frazier's death, Muhammad Ali said, "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration." Frazier's private funeral took place on November 14 at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia and in addition to friends and family was attended by Muhammad Ali, Don King, Larry Holmes, Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman, among others. He was later buried at the Ivy Hill Cemetery, a short drive from the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.He was played by boxer James Toney in the 2001 film Ali.
Some of the most memorable moments in the 1976 boxing-themed feature film, Rocky—such as Rocky's carcass-punching scenes and Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as part of his training regimen—are taken from Frazier's real-life exploits. In the film, Frazier makes a cameo appearance, promoting the fight between Rocky and Apollo.
In March 2007, a Joe Frazier action figure was released as part of a range of toys based on the Rocky film franchise, developed by the American toy manufacturer, Jakks Pacific.
Electric bassist Jeff Berlin wrote a musical tribute simply called "Joe Frazier," originally recorded on the Bill Bruford album Gradually Going Tornado, available on the compilation album Master Strokes.
Mr. Sandman, a video game character in the Punch-Out !! video game series known for being one of the toughest opponents, was based in part on Frazier.
His granddaughter, Latrice Frazier, appeared on an episode of Maury.
In the late 1970s, Frazier created a soul-funk group called "Joe Frazier and the Knockouts," mentioned in Billboard and recording a number of singles. Joe toured widely all over the USA and Europe including Ireland where among other places he performed in Donegal and Athy County Kildare, Ireland with his band. Joe Frazier and the Knockouts were also featured singing in a 1978 Miller beer commercial.