Among top heavyweights
Los Angeles Times
Joe Frazier's greatness and immortality can be measured easily because you can't say Ali without saying Frazier, any more than you could say Dempsey without Tunney or Robinson without La Motta.
Frazier gave Ali the two worst beatings "The Greatest" suffered in his prime. In their first epic bout in 1971, Frazier, with one of the great left hooks in history, dumped Ali on the canvas in the 15th round to give Ali his first loss. Their third bout, "The Thrilla in Manila," in 1975 was the most punishing long fight I ever saw. Ali won it —- barely.
Where does Frazier rank? Easily among the best heavyweight champs of the modern era: along with Ali, Foreman, Liston and Tyson.
Top 10 of all time
Smokin' Joe is a top 10 heavyweight of all time, easy.
Those magnificent 41 rounds with Muhammad Ali would be enough to earn him elite status among the all-time greats. There's also 27 knockouts among his 32 wins, and one of the most stunning left hooks the fight game has ever felt.
Frazier wasn't a boxer. He was a fighter. He was going to press you and beat you down and wear you out with relentless pressure.
He is a throwback to the days when boxing was relevant in this country, and the world heavyweight championship meant something.
His greatness will always be defined by his bouts with Ali. The two boxers gave us a bloody ballet for the ages.
He was overrated
While Joe Frazier was unquestionably a great puncher, he wasn't one of history's great heavyweights.
Although he had a dynamic left hook and as much grit and determination as any athlete ever had, Frazier's 32-4-1 record would be much less impressive without the 1971 victory over Muhammad Ali. The tremendous knockdown in the final round cemented his legacy, but the punch wouldn't have landed if Ali hadn't been pushing for a desperation knockout. If Ali, a 1960 Olympian, and Frazier, a 1964 Olympian, had fought in 1967 when Ali was in his prime, Frazier probably would have taken a beating.
Even so, Ali won the subsequent two fights with Smokin' Joe.
Frazier elevated Ali
Muhammad Ali is the greatest heavyweight of all time — and so Joe Frazier has to be listed among the best ever simply for helping to elevate Ali to that level.
By handing Ali his first pro loss in 1971, Frazier proved that even "The Greatest" wasn't infallible. The "Fight of the Century" was the 27th of 29 wins to start Frazier's pro career and set the table for two rematches — both won by Ali — including the "Thrilla in Manila."
Those were two of only four defeats Frazier suffered. The other two were to a five-years-younger George Foreman.
Frazier isn't the best ever; you might argue that he's not even in the top five. There's no excluding him from the top 10, though.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun