A time when heavyweights ruled the world

Updated: 2011-11-09 07:58

By Tym Glaser (China Daily)

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The sport of boxing took a thunderous left hook to the chin on Monday with the passing of Joe Frazier.

Already reeling on the ropes due to declining interest and a lack of superstars, the sport lost iconic heavyweight "Smokin' Joe" to cancer at the age of 67, and also a major piece of what could be considered the golden age of heavyweights, which ran from the mid-late 60s until the mid 70s.

A time when heavyweights ruled the world

I was just a wee boy on the other side of the planet, but on the trusty black-and-white television set in my Adelaide living room, I got to see the likes of Floyd Patterson, Ken Norton, the behemoth George Foreman and, a little later, Larry Holmes in their full fistic fury.

However, nothing on that grainy screen could match when Muhammad Ali and Frazier fought - particularly against each other. I think my first television memory is sitting in a darkened assembly room at Darlington Primary watching man land on the moon in 1969; my second is Ali vs Frazier at home with my dad and Papa Wood.

We were cheering for Frazier because we wanted somebody to knock the arrogance out of Ali, and he did with a thunderous left that floored Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden although, to the Louisville Lip's credit, he did get back up.

Frazier was the nuggety, full-steam-ahead fighter, while Ali was a taller boxing craftsman. Their trilogy was a classic study in contrasting styles, incredible punishment and human endurance.

Ali won the last two battles, but he was never quite the same fighter again and neither was Smokin' Joe.

Physically and psychologically, they had probably beaten the sport (for want of a better word) out of each other.

Ali is universally proclaimed The Greatest, but there would be no greatness without those three brutal fights against Frazier that tested his heart as much as his ring craft.

After taunting Frazier with names like "Uncle Tom" and "Gorilla" during their spiteful feud, Ali admitted as much in retirement.

Heavyweight boxing has not been the same since those days when all those big boys mixed it up, and maybe won't be again in my lifetime.

But at least a puny, little white boy from South Australia got to see Smokin' Joe knock The Greatest down.

RIP, Joe Frazier.

Tym Glaser is a senior sports copy editor who is starting to see too many of his childhood heroes pass away. He can be contacted at tymglaser@yahoo.com

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