Joe Frazier, 1944-2011

And then 1975:

“Joe, they told me you was washed up.”

“They told you wrong, pretty boy.”

He never got the accolades that Ali did, and never had the popularity of Foreman.  And maybe he didn’t deserve it.  But he carried himself with dignity, even as Ali grotesquely slandered him as an Uncle Tom.  And he did have the greatest left hook in history.

Rest in peace.


Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

6 thoughts on “Joe Frazier, 1944-2011”

    1. The funny thing is that I actually agree with you as a general matter. I’m not a boxing fan. I suppose, though, that I have always appreciated someone performing in sports at a high level of talent and courage. Frazier did so, and never got the same sorts of accolades as others who deserved it less. He always seemed to me to be the underappreciated underdog. In any event, I can respect the courage and professionalism of those soldiers who have it, even though the vast majority of wars are pointless and destructive.

      1. Agreed. The tragedy of boxing is what it did to Frazier’s capacities. The man, though, was admirable, as sickening as the sport may be. Jonathan omitted the most repulsive part of Ali’s slandering of Frazier: Smokin’ Joe was one of the people who had provided financial assistance to Ali while he was banned from boxing and had been a vocal supporter of having Ali reinstated.

        Frazier suffered another indignity as well. Boorish clowns on the right turned the Ali-Frazier matchups into a tale of the pro-American Frazier vs. the anti-American Ali. Frazier was no Uncle Tom, but the wingnuts sure as hell tried to treat him as one.

  1. I agree with both O’Hare and Zasloff. The LAT obit today quotes Foreman on how frightening it was to face Frazier in the ring. I am in no way a boxing fan and it had never occurred to me that these guys might actually be afraid of each other. After all, it’s just a fistfight, right? (ahem)

    And that did make me admire the courage involved. The piece also touches on the really egregious racist history of the sport, or at least so it seems to me. If Ali had been white, I don’t think he’d have lost his title over his political opinions.

    On the larger point about the sport though, what if they just didn’t hit each other in the head anymore? You’d have to figure out some other way of winning, I suppose, but isn’t there already a point system? We humans are quite violent. Football is questionable too, very much so. And we still have that bad habit of making war. What to do about us?

    1. On the larger point about the sport though, what if they just didn’t hit each other in the head anymore?

      This was actually the norm for boxing back in the 19th century. There wasn’t a rule against hitting someone in the head, but in the days of bare-knuckle fighting, repeatedly targeting the head was a good way to break bones in your hand. Fights consisted mostly of body shots, and some of them had an indefinite number of rounds, as a knockout was the only way to win. Some went thirty or more rounds.

      The advent of gloves was more to protect the hands of the puncher than the head of the punchee.

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