Q. Why was Muhammad Ali so mean towards Joe Frazier?
answered by Anthony P. Puricelli (Ali Fan since 2012)
I am a huge Muhammad Ali fan. But, if there is one thing (among many) that I find fault with in him, it’s his treatment of Joe Frazier.
When Ali was barred from boxing in 1968, he basically went broke over three years. Stuck in the middle of a huge fight against the courts and his growing status as a prominent civil rights and anti-war figure, money became tighter for Ali with each passing day.
Joe Frazier actually stepped in and helped Ali out when he was at his lowest point. He gave him money, testified before Congress and even petitioned Richard Nixon to have Ali reinstated in boxing. Frazier even said publicly that his title belonged to Ali, that he was just holding it and if Ali was let back in, he would happily give it back to Ali.
When Ali was finally reinstated did he thank Joe? No. Instead of thanking the man who cared for him when he needed someone in his corner, he insulted him, and told him and the world that his belt didn’t mean anything, that he (Ali) was still the Champion.
Naturally, this annoyed Frazier, who immediately demanded a fight with Ali to prove to the world that his title was legitimate. When they finally met on March 8th, 1971, Frazier was ready.
Frazier fought Ali harder than anyone had, he timed Ali’s punches perfectly to dodge and attack. He cornered Ali preventing him from moving around the ring, Ali was unprepared and it showed. Frazier knocked Ali down twice, although Ali contested that he simply “lost balance”.
Frazier won in a landslide and proved to the world and to Ali that he was the true Champion.
Fast forward four years later to the Thrilla in Manila.
Ali had just come off what was perhaps the biggest victory of his career and beaten George Foreman to regain the Heavyweight title, his first possession in nearly a decade. Not only was his victory shocking as many people predicted Ali would lose horribly. But it propelled Ali making him a legend and icon.
Frazier, having lost their last match in 1974, felt he had something to prove in 1975.
The bout was decided to take place in the Philippines, as the President of the Philippines wanted to display the country on a global scale. The media run up to the fight was brutal for Frazier. When Ali stepped off the plane, some reporter gave him a rubber Gorilla, which Ali quickly asserted was Joe Frazier.
To call a black man or woman a gorilla is extremely offensive and distasteful. When a white person does it, it’s bad, but I can only imagine the pain, humiliation and anger which must’ve coursed through Frazier’s veins when he saw that Ali, a fellow black man, was calling him subhuman like that.
Not only was it incredibly distasteful, but it was racist, mean and degrading. Frazier felt anger like he had never felt before and told some of his closest friends that come fight night he would kill Muhammad Ali.
This set the stage for a fight where victory was nothing short of crushing the opposing man in each man’s eyes. For both of them, to win this fight would be to dominate the other man and finally establish once and for all who truly was alpha male. Both men wanted to hurt one another, both men would not go down easily, this was going to be one of the most brutal fights in boxing history.
And it was.
For fifteen rounds the two men beat each other up. Each blow was calculated to do the most damage possible, no energy was wasted. Each men was bruised badly, and by the fourteenth round, both were close to death.
Both of Frazier’s eyes were badly swollen to the point of blindness, Ali’s ribs were horribly bruised and cracked. At the end of the fourteenth round, Ali came back to his corner and demanded his gloves be cut. But Dundee ignored him, seeing a commotion in the Frazier corner.
Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch threw the towel and ended the fight.
li stood up from his stool and rose his hands high above his head, walked a few steps forward and collapsed.
No words were spoken by Ali immediately after the fight, but he would later say, that his respect for Frazier would cement that day, saying “If God ever calls me to a Holy War, I want Joe Frazier by my side”.
Time would pass and it would appear that things would settle between the two men. In 1978, Frazier appeared on “This is your Life” as one of Ali’s closest friends. The two shared a hug and smiled at one another, Ali even laughed at what Frazier said about him.
It seemed like the two men had put their differences behind them, and it would seem that way for some time.
But near the end of his life, Frazier developed a deep hatred towards Ali, and Ali began to feel deep remorse over how he had treated Frazier. So what happened?
Stricken with Parkinson’s disease, I believe Ali began to see his own mortality and saw his disease as a punishment from God for his behavior. One of them being how he treated Joe Frazier, I suspect, Ali reached out to Frazier sometime shortly after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and sought to apologize to Frazier.
I don’t believe Frazier ever accepted Ali’s apology, which I believe to be a sincere apology. Ali went away feeling nothing but remorse for the rest of his life and that is how Frazier wanted him to feel. On camera, Joe would act as if he and Ali were friends, but in private and near the end of his life, Frazier’s words towards Ali were just as brutal as Ali’s had been towards him back in the 1970s.
In three decades, the roles were reverse. Frazier said things about Ali that were incredibly insensitive, degrading and one might even add, evil.
In 1996, Joe Frazier in an article in ESPN said the following about Ali:
“Truth is, I’d like to rumble with that sucker again—beat him up piece by piece and mail him back to Jesus…. Now people ask me if I feel bad for him, now that things aren’t going so well for him. Nope. I don’t. Fact is, I don’t give a damn. They want me to love him, but I’ll open up the graveyard and bury his ass when the Lord chooses to take him.”
In the end, Frazier’s hatred with Ali died with him, and Ali’s remorse over his treatment of Frazier died with him.
Both men it seemed were unable to find a middle ground.
Ali appeared at Frazier’s funeral in 2011.
Would Frazier have attended Ali’s funeral if he died before him? I don’t know.
But in the same vein, had Frazier died in 1973, would Ali have attended his funeral? I don’t know.
One thing is for sure, the respect these men felt towards one another was real. But so was the hatred. In the end, the best word one can use to describe their relationship is “complicated”.
source : Quora