By Frank Warren, courtesy of The Sun
THE world of boxing was very sad to hear of the passing of Joe Frazier who died from liver cancer.
Smokin' Joe will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.
Despite winning Olympic gold and a world title, he'll always be best remembered for his epic trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali.
Ali was forced out of boxing because of his refusal to go to Vietnam. Joe beat Jimmy Ellis to win the vacant world title.
He then campaigned for Ali to be given his license back.
So he was very hurt and bemused when Ali referred to him as an 'Uncle Tom', the worst insult you can call a black man.
Those words haunted Frazier for the rest of his life.
They met at Madison Square Garden in 1977 in 'The Fight of the Century' which Frazier won.
All of Hollywood attended — Frank Sinatra was at ringside as a photographer for Life magazine while Burt Lancaster did the commentary.
Ali won the second on points but the 'Thrilla in Manila' is, for me, the best if not most brutal heavyweight fight of all time.
Back then, title fights were over 15 rounds and, by the 14th, both fought to a near standstill.
As the bell sounded, Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch pulled him out before the last round.
Frazier was hampered by a badly swollen eye that he couldn't see out of. There was relief on Ali's face as Angelo Dundee was apparently about to pull his man out too.
Frazier protested, "I want him, boss". Futch said "It's all over. No one will forget what you did here today."
He fought George Foreman who inflicted the first loss on his record when he brutally floored Frazier six times.
We met quite a few times and got on well. I always found him to be a very humble and quiet guy.
I also promoted his son Marvis, who was also a heavyweight, when he beat Funso Banjo at the Alexandra Pavilion in London in 1984.
While they were here I took Joe to see a football match at Highbury — Ken Friar, the then managing director at Arsenal, asked if he'd do a lap of honour around the pitch.
He got a massive standing ovation from the fans and was touched by their warmth.
We also had a few lunches together and it surprised me he drank a cocktail of neat brandy and port mixed. Who knows if that may have contributed to later health problems.
He was still very bitter about the 'Gorilla' and 'Uncle Tom' comments made by Ali.
In the late 1980s, I hosted Frazier, Ali and Foreman in London when they promoted the Champions Forever video tour.
Even then you could see he hated being in the same room as Ali, who was showing early signs of Parkinson's.
Ali later publicly apologised to Frazier and also to his son for his remarks but Smokin' Joe never forgave him.
A few years ago, Frazier was quoted: "Forgiveness? It's not up to me to forgive him, only the Lord can do that. There's no forgiveness.
"Who will be the best guy in the final round, who is the one going to heaven and who is going to hell? I know which one it is and I sure ain't the one who is going to hell."
Although just under 6ft, Frazier had tremendous upper-body movement.
He was a better boxer than he was given credit for.
Surprisingly, he had only 37 pro fights but had he been fighting today he would definitely be a world champion.
My late matchmaker, Ernie Fossey, rated Frazier as his favourite heavyweight ever.
He retired and was the lead singer in R&B band Smokin' Joe and The Knockouts.
Unfortunately he made some bad investments. He ended up living above his Philadelphia boxing gym and was hit by a car in 2002 that had a serious effect on his health.
He lived in the shadow of Ali — as did most of the heavyweights in a golden era — but Joe played a significant part in that wonderful period.
This week, Eddie Futch's words were so prophetic... "No one will forget what you did."
Rest in Peace, champ.
Groves loves Burns' night
RICKY BURNS and George Groves both put in superb performances last week at Wembley Arena.
Scotsman Burns tamed lightweight Michael Katsidis with a brilliantly controlled display to win a second world title in a second weight division.
It was a tough and gruelling fight for Burns who could hardly lift the belt after Katsidis repeatedly punched his arms, trying to bring down his defence.
Unbeaten Groves produced a spectacular punch for a second-round stoppage of former British champion Paul Smith.
Groves took a cracking right from Smith at the end of the first round. But he came back in the second with his own tremendous right that floored Smith — and then dropped him again before the referee stopped it.
Groves fights again on December 9 at the ExCeL, London. Rival James DeGale is also on the card.
MANNY PACQUIAO and Juan Manuel Marquez could serve up a thrill-ogy in Las Vegas tonight.
There have been many great rubber matches over the years — Ali-Frazier, Barrera-Morales, Leonard-Duran, Holyfield-Bowe and Gatti-Ward — with a dominant fighter emerging in the final chapter.
Pacquiao's two previous fights with Marquez have been among the best of the decade but were so close and controversial it warrants a decider.
The Filipino dropped Marquez three times in the opening round of their first fight in 2004 but Marquez won almost every round after that and the bout was eventually called a draw.
Their rematch in 2008 saw Pacquiao score another knockdown as he won a tough 12-round battle on a split decision by just one point.
This time I fancy the Pacman to wear down Marquez in the later rounds for a stoppage.
Tags: Frank Warren