TRIBUTE TO JOE FRAZIER
The boxing world was thrown into deep mourning last Tuesday following the death of the former heavyweight boxing champion and one of the game's greats, Joe Frazier. The renowned boxer was on cancer treatment in Philadelphia, United States, after being diagnosed of cancer of the liver several weeks ago.
Aged 67, his demise on November 8, 2011 has left a huge vacuum in the game of boxing that will be very hard to fill. Popularly known as Smokin' Joe, his death has elicited torrents of tributes the world over in honour of a departed boxing hero, a man who gave them many great memories of the sport dubbed sweet science.
Among his epic boxing battles was the one fought in Manilla, Phillipines entitled Thriller in Manilla against his arch rival, Muhammad Ali. Frazier alongside Muhammad Ali and George Foreman elevated boxing to the highest level. He made enormous contributions that made boxing interesting.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Ali confessed that Frazier was his toughest opponent in the ring, especially Thriller in Manilla. Frazier made history as the first man to beat Muhammad Ali in 1971 but lost his next two bouts with the latter. In his tribute to his former colleague, Ali said that 'the world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration.' Britain's former heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis said: 'he definitely was legendary and he made a great contribution to boxing.'
Also, the Nigerian boxing promoter, Martin Osaile, said that 'the deceased was a true legend. Generations yet unborn may never see a boxer like him. Frazier never ran away from blows. He was always pursuing his opponents in the ring no matter the situation he found himself.' No doubt, his death is a big loss to the beautiful game. In his distinguished career in boxing, Frazier held the world title between 1970 and 1973. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1964.
Born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina, Frazier had a total of 37 fights, with 32 wins (27Kos), four losses and one draw. He won gold for USA at the 1964 Olympics, as well as winning the NYSAC version of world title with victory over Buster Mathis in 1968. He also won the WBA and WBC versions of the heavyweight title in 1970. Frazier won the heavyweight title in 1970, defeating Jimmy Ellis in New York, after Ali had been stripped of the championship in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. He lost the crown to George Foreman, three years later.
The deceased was most widely known for three great fights with Ali, including the 1975 epic, Thriller in Manilla. His last world title fight took place in 1975 against Muhammad Ali. Frazier retired from boxing in 1976 after being beaten by Foreman. His comeback bid in 1981 was quite unsuccessful.
We join the boxing world and his numerous fans and admirers in mourning the death of one of the boxing greats of our time. From a humble background, Frazier proved that with diligence and doggedness one can rise to the pinnacle of his chosen profession.
He won many epic boxing battles but unfortunately lost the battle of life to cancer of the liver. He was a fierce warrior in the ring and a gentleman too. Frazier was a credit to heavyweight boxing and brought honour and glamour to the game he loved so much. We sympathise with his family, numerous fans and admirers and the boxing world at large over this great loss. While we mourn his exit from the world boxing stage, we use the occasion to reflect on the state of boxing in Nigeria. When are we going to produce our own Joe Frazier?
It is a pity that after the boxing feats achieved by boxing champions like Dick Tiger, Hoggan Bassey, Eddy Ndukwu, Jerry Okorodudu, Davidson Andeh and Obisia Nwankpa, boxing in Nigeria has lost steam. Let the Nigerian Boxing Federation do something to resurrect the game once again. While we pay tribute to the great fallen boxing hero, let us remind the nation's boxing authorities that Nigeria can still produce a Joe Frazier and other world greats.