Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Joe Frazier, RIP

Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier died yesterday of liver cancer at 67.  The boxing world, indeed the world of American sports has lost one of its very greatest. 

Those of you who follow the Sage know that I am, or at least was, a great fan of boxing.  Muhammad Ali's rise to fame and infamy occurred during my lifetime, so I was very much aware at the time of  the hype that surrounded, as well as the stakes that defined his first fight with Joe Frazier in 1971.

During that intensely political era, Ali promoted the fight in part by politicizing it and I, like most Americans of a conservative disposition (although I was no "conservative" at the time, too young to even know what that meant) wanted nothing more than for Frazier to SHUT ALI's MOUTH.

While he did beat him, he didn't shut him up.  No one could. No one ever could.  Sadly, it would take Parkinson's Syndrome to silence Muhammad Ali.

But even more sadly, Frazier's life after that fight and the two more with Ali, most especially the last, the famous "Thrilla in Manila" in 1975, became characterized chiefly and increasingly as that of a bitter old man who bore a huge grudge.  Therefore, it is no doubt sadder still that the story of Joe Frazier, an undeniably great fighter in his own right, one of the best ever, can only be told in relation to his nemesis Ali.

With that in mind, let me recommend to you this very good piece by Richard Hoffer over at the Sports Illustrated website. It's not so much a eulogy for Frazier as a memorial.  Here's a taste:
That fight [the "Thrilla in Manilla"] was pretty much the end of their careers (Frazier lost once more to Foreman then gave it up; Ali stuck it out several more years, though never again as brilliant or determined), and Frazier was left to a life of resentment. He never got over the losses, the insults, the legacy that was left him. Ali became a world hero, lighting Olympic flames, an example of political courage the rest of his mute life. Frazier, a bitter, old warrior, instead had to consider the inadequacies of grit in a time that was more inclined to reward glamour. (my emphasis)
(That last phrase, I thought, served as well to describe and diagnose almost perfectly the state of the country since the 1960s.  This is a political blog after all.  Well, mostly anyway.

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