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Boxing champion Joe Frazier dies at 67

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Joe Frazier, 67, the former heavyweight boxing champion who was known for his fighting spirit, powerful punch and intense rivalry with Muhammad Ali, died Monday night in a hospice in Philadelphia. He had been suffering from liver cancer.

As a heavyweight in all senses of the word, Mr. Frazier was one of the best known champions of the latter decades of the 20th century.

While at the top of the heavyweight ranks, the elite of boxing, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Frazier, who went by the sobriquet of Smokin' Joe, was known for his knockout punch.

In more than two dozen fights, Mr. Frazier’s ferocious, brawling, slugging style sent his foes to the canvas for the full count.

Among boxing fans, and connoisseurs of popular culture, his bouts with Ali have become enshrined in memory. He was the first to defeat Ali in the ring. It happened in New York's Madison Square Garden, long the world’s capital of prizefighting.

The contest went the full 15 rounds, neither able to dispatch the other, in what was described in the hyperbole of the sports world as the Fight of the Century.

Ali won a 12-round decision in a 1974 rematch, and the following year their third and final fight, the “Thrilla in Manila,” outdid their previous encounters.

In that slugfest, Ali emerged the victor when Mr. Frazier could not answer the bell for the final round.

In addition to his legendary battles with Ali, Mr. Frazier was also known for losing his title in a devastating knockout to George Foreman in 1973. Foreman knocked him out again in 1976.

But the rivalry with Ali was what he was better known for, a kind of face-off in the ring and outside it, that emphasized the contrasting styles and personalities of both men.

With a less flamboyant and engaging image than Ali’s Mr. Frazier seemed far less expressive, possessed of a stolid ruggedness of a hard-working man who let his fists and his dedication speak for him.

Joseph William Frazier was born in Beaufort, S.C., in January 1944, and entered the professional boxing ranks 21 years later. Through the late 1960s, the 5 foot 11 1/2-inch fighter gained recognition as a contender, and, dispatching a series of others who wished the heavyweight title, became undisputed champion in 1970.

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