“If he didn’t have all the tools, he worked with what he had and he got the best out of it. He came forward even if it meant it was disasterous for him like it was in his fight with Foreman. His heart was bigger than he was. Win or lose, I never heard Joe complain about anything after a fight. If he lost, he knew he lost. If he won, he knew he won.
“A lot of people are out there saying what they are and what they’re not. But I can say what Joe was. He was a man. And by that I’m not talking about his sex. He was a man. He stood up for what he believed. You know what a sad day is going to be. It’s when they put up that statue of Joe in Philadelphia – and they will someday – and he won’t be able to touch it.
“I wished it had happened before he died. It should have happened. It’s a sad day. But the people who knew Joe aren’t going to be too sad because now we get to sit back and pay homage to a real throwback fighter. They don’t make them like that anymore. Joe would break a guy down before he would break his jaw.
“Let me ask you this – Would you rather walk down a dark alley with a heavyweight like David Haye with a blister on his toe or would you rather walk down that alley with Smokin’ Joe and his left hook?”
Unbeaten welterweight prospect Mike Jones: “When I first met Joe, I was 15 years old. He always instilled a lot of hard work in me. A lot of discipline and the work ethic. No talking. No playing around. All business.
“Joe was never a main amateur coach, but he would give you his input. He would show you what you were doing right and wrong. When you came into Joe Frazier’s Gym, you had to fight like Joe Frazier. Everybody was on their front foot. Everything was power.
“I sort of still have that mindset to this day. It was a sad thing to hear that he had passed. It just makes me that much more motivated on his behalf. I want to carry the torch and to keep Philadelphia on the map. Joe Frazier’s death puts everything into perspective. You have to go out there and get it and make it happen while you still have the opportunity to do that.”
Promoter Don King: “Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the embodiment of what a great heavyweight champion and person should be. 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 honored 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.
“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. 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 honor, dignity and pride for his people, the American people, and brought the nation together as only sports can do.”
HBO’s Jim Lampley: “I was 15 when Joe Frazier won the Olympic gold medal. I was 21 when he fought Muhammad Ali the first time. So, you could say, in a sense, from a distance, that I grew up with Joe Frazier. So you could say that when Joe Frazier died last night, I lost a portion of my youth.
“But I’m also pleased to say that I knew him. It’s an astonishing honor to say that I knew Joe Frazier and that I got to spend time with him. My grandparents are originally from that area of South Carolina, from which he came — Buford. I grew up, as you knew, in the midst of the civil rights movement of the South.
“I know enough to know that Joe’s life as a child growing up in Buford, South Carolina, working the fields outside of Buford was not all that terribly different from those of the field slave 100 years before and the kind of great people from whom he decinded.
“Given that commonality in our roots that makes me even more deeply priviledged to know that I met this man. Every time I was ever with Joe Frazier, we sang and danced together, because he knew that I liked to sing. When he got to know me, he knew that if he came over and sang a rhythm and blues song, that I would sing the chorus with him.
“We did that at cocktail parties and post-fight receptions and things like that. Those are memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”