“But we should set that part of his life aside and make sure we always remember his magnificent individual achievements. He was born and raised in South Carolina before the passing of the federal civil rights bill, the son of a sharecropper, he knew, first hand, what it was like to feel hunger and legal discrimination.
“Despite many social obstacles of those days he grew and worked his way to a life and career of world fame and riches. He was an Olympic champion and an undisputed world heavyweight champion but there were some things in his life that he treasured more than the titles and victories in the ring.
“One of his great joys was being a father and grandfather…like his ring career, he excelled in this capacity. Over the last decade I saw this once physically gifted man start to have health issues that stemmed from an auto accident years earlier. His bear hugs weren’t as bone crunching as before and it was the same with shaking hands.
“He never complained when it was obvious that he was in pain. For the last eight or nine years I would look forward to seeing him at an annual charity event in Washington, DC that featured the legends of the ring. Joe was in a wheelchair for the last few appearances, but when it was his turn to enter the ring, he’d get on his feet, and, with total disregard of the difficulty, and pain, he would walk into that ring.
“He still was Smokin’ Joe Frazier, heavyweight champion of the World — 206 pounds of chiseled ebony steel with the left hook from Hell. He was once again, The King of the Ring. Tomorrow, I will fly to DC for this year’s fundraiser. ‘Smokin’ Joe won’t be there.
“There won’t be the hug that once crushed the air out of my lungs or the hand shake that would make knuckles pop. Those things hadn’t been there for a while anyway. But what will be truly missed will be the presence of that legend who graced us with his fighting heart and his honest effort to never give less than 100 percent when he stepped in that ring. Along with many millions out there, let me say, we will miss you, Joe. We love you. Rest in peace, dear champion.”
Golden Boy Promotions publicist Bill Caplan: “I worked with Joe Frazier the two times that he fought George Foreman, and that was in 1973 and ’76. I found him to be delightful, and just a fun guy to be around.
“Over his huge rivalry with Muhammad Ali, Ali was loved by many and hated by some, but I never heard anybody ever say anything bad about Joe, in or out of the ring. Anybody. Ever.”
Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Don Chargin: “The world has lost not only the ultimate competitor in Joe Frazier, but a man who was truly a good guy. Anybody who ever saw Frazier fight, you know, he was the one guy who was never in a dull fight or a bad fight.
“Lee Majors, the star of that old Six Million Dollar Man television series, he came to me to talk to Joe’s people and tried to buy a part of Joe’s contract at that time. He knew that Joe was a very special talent, especially with that left hook of his. That punch was really special.”
Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya: “I used to be promoted by Jerry Perenchio. Jerry would always tell me the amazing stories about how he promoted Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at The Garden. Of course, Joe Frazier was a pioneer for all of us in the sport of boxing.
“But what I most remember Jerry Parenchio telling me was about how Joe Frazier was just a great human being who was a sweetheart of a person outside of the ring. I can attest to that. Joe Frazier was a warrior inside of the ring and outside of the ring, but every time that we would see each other, Joe would always give me a big hug and tell me how great of a jab that I had. I considered him a friend.
“Joe Frazier would always go back to how important humanitarian work was to him. In my mind, that’s what I will remeber him for. He would say that we need more people to do humanitarian work. He would say that We need more people, more boxers to do that type of work. This is a tremendous loss for the boxing family and for the world. Joe Frazier will sorely missed, that’s for sure.”
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman: “Truly the one and only. If you were his friend, you got no more than the stranger. ‘Jam Bugger,’ the highest compliment and form of praise, from Smoking Joe. Joe Frazier for me, was the first champion I followed, and studied.
“I wanted to fight him, one day. I looked for weakness — anyone who treated big shots big and the little person small was a plastic person. This kind of person would melt when the going got rough. With Joe, the first time we met, I extended my hand for a hand shake, he held back his hand and said ‘George, meet my wife,’ after I greeted his Mrs. He then said hello and nice to meet you George, with a firm hand shake.
“Nothing weak in his game. Everyone was the same. Joe Frazier had journeyed from the Southern part of the USA, worked hard to provide for his wife and children, making sure they had a better life than the one he found so hard. They would get a good education, and a chance to take part in the American dream, which meant no bowing down to any man, woman or child. Church and service to almighty God would be first in the family’s life.
“Preaching to your kids is one thing, but example was another. Even his fighting style was his way of life. When the bell rings. He would not back up from King Kong. I know, I knocked Joe down six times. When our fight was over, Joe was on his feet looking for me.”