A man who made a living fighting it out in the ring is now battling cancer. Former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier has liver cancer and is under hospice care, according to his manager, Leslie Wolff.
Frazier’s epic matchups with Muhammad Ali helped elevate both to the boxing icon status they still enjoy today. In 1971, Frazier became the first man to defeat Ali, knocking him down in the “Fight of the Century.”
The diagnosis reportedly came four or five weeks ago, but doctors have not yet told Frazier, 67, how long he has to live, Wolff told the Associated Press.
Ali, who won his two other bouts against Frazier including the classic “Thrilla in Manilla”, said he is praying for his former foe.
“The news about Joe is hard to believe and even harder to accept,” Ali said in a statement. “Joe is a fighter and a champion, and I am praying that he is fighting now.”
The contention between two of boxing’s greatest ever fighters spilled out of the ring and continued to taint their relationship for decades. Ali called Frazier — who only lost to Ali and George Foreman during his career — an “Uncle Tom” and a “gorilla” in the lead-up to their fights. The Philadelphia Inquirer recounted Ali’s quote following the 1996 Olympic torch relay in Atlanta.
“If it had been me (there), he’d have been pushed into the fire.”
But it appears with serious health issues wearing down both fighters, the two former champions have reconciled.
“My family and I are keeping Joe and his family in our daily prayers,” Ali said. “Joe has a lot of friends pulling for him, and I’m one of them.”