Don King hails "Smokin' Joe"

2011-11-08 21:35

Deerfield Beach - Legendary boxing promoter Don King paid tribute to former undisputed heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, who died aged 67 on Monday of liver cancer.

"Smokin' Joe" as he was known was famed for his trilogy of epic fights against Muhammad Ali, and King promoted him in the last of them the 1975 'Thrilla in Manila'.

King, 80 and who also promoted among other memorable fights the 'Rumble in the Jungle' heayweight bout between Ali and George Foreman in the then Zaire in 1974, said that Frazier had been a supremely courageous pugilist.

"Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the embodiment of what a great heavyweight champion and person should be," said King in a statement.

"He was a great gladiator. When Smokin’ Joe came to the ring, you knew you had someone who was coming to fight. I was proud to have known and promoted him, and I was honoured to call him a friend.

"The courage Smokin' Joe showed in "The Thrilla in Manila" - answering every Ali onslaught with an equally withering response - will remain in the hearts and minds of boxing fans around the globe forever.

"It was one of the most dramatic fights in history. Although the warrior inside Smokin' Joe wanted to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, his chief second and friend Eddie Futch acted as more than a corner man to step in and refuse to let him continue, so he could live to fight another day and smoke 'em some more."

King, who also formed a successful partnership with Mike Tyson at his peak, said Frazier had contributed to the battle for African Americans to gain greater recognition in the United States.

"One cannot underestimate the contribution Smokin' Joe and Ali made to progress and change by creating the space, through their talent, for black men to be seen, visible and relevant," said King.

"The Thrilla in Manila helped make America better.

"Not only was he a great fighter but also a great man. He lived as he fought with courage and commitment at a time when African Americans in all spheres of life were engaged in a struggle for emancipation and respect.

"Smokin' Joe brought honoor, dignity and pride for his people, the American people, and brought the nation together as only sports can do."