By Arturo R. García
Joe Frazier was mourned Monday night, following his death at age 67. And I can’t help but feel that, this time a little more than many, there was the sense that it came too late. Because at any other time, the story of “Smokin’ Joe” – the world heavyweight boxing champion in a time when being so still marked one as The Baddest Man On The Planet – could have marked him as a hero in a decade that sorely needed them. Instead, his defining moments in the era saw him cast as the villain, a role he would sometimes embrace all too well in later years.
For it was Frazier’s luck to run into Muhammad Ali at the height of Ali’s oratory powers. Suddenly Frazier’s American Dream was painted as a staid product of the Establishment, and no one in sports made a career out of defying that like Ali, and the three fights between them, for better and worse, followed Frazier for the rest of his life.