Local/State

Ex-heavyweight champ Joe Frazier has liver cancer

Monday, November 14, 2011
FILE - In this April 2, 2009, file photo, Joe Frazier poses for a portrait in New York. The former heavyweight champion has died after a brief final fight with liver cancer. He was 67. The family issued a release confirming the boxers death on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File)   FILE - In this April 2, 2009, file photo, Joe Frazier poses for a portrait in New York. The former heavyweight champion has died after a brief final fight with liver cancer. He was 67. The family issued a release confirming the boxers death on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File)

Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier has liver cancer and is under hospice care.

The 67-year-old boxer was diagnosed four or five weeks ago, Frazier's personal and business manager said Saturday. Leslie Wolff told Action News that doctors have not yet told Frazier how long he has to live, but he is resting comfortably.

"We have medical experts looking into the all the options that are out there," Wolff said. "There are very few. But that doesn't mean we're going to stop looking."

Wolff, who has been Frazier's manager for seven years, said the boxer had been in out and out of the hospital since early October and receiving hospice treatment the last week.

"We appreciate every prayer we can get," Wolff said. "I've got everybody praying for him. We"ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope for a miracle."

Frazier's illness was first reported by the New York Post, citing an unidentified. source.

Frazier was the first man to beat Muhammad Ali, knocking him down and taking a decision in the so-called Fight of the Century in 1971. He would go on to lose two more fights to Ali, including the epic "Thrilla in Manila" bout.

Frazier was bitter for many years about the way Ali treated him then. More recently, he said he had forgiven Ali for repeatedly taunting him.

Smokin' Joe was a small yet ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early. It was the left hook that dropped Ali in the 15th round of their "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in a bout where each fighter earned an unheard of $2.5 million.

While that fight is celebrated in boxing lore, Ali and Frazier put on an even better show in their third fight, held in a sweltering arena in Manila as part of Ali's world tour of fights in 1975. Nearly blinded by Ali's punches, Frazier still wanted to go out for the 15th round of the fight but was held back by trainer Eddie Futch in a bout Ali would later say was the closest thing to death he could imagine.

Frazier won the heavyweight title in 1970 by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their fight at Madison Square Garden. He defended it successfully four times before George Foreman knocked him down six times in the first two rounds to take the title from him in 1973.

Frazier would never be heavyweight champion again.

In recent years, Frazier had been doing regular autograph appearances, including one in Las Vegas the weekend of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight in September.

Joe Frazier had a profound impact on the world of heavyweight boxing and in the city of Philadelphia.

"As boxing goes and as far as this city goes, you can't tell the story of boxing in Philadelphia without mentioning Joe Frazier," said Alex Ivanov.

"He had a dream, and he fulfilled it," said Wolff. "That's a powerful, powerful story, and that's what I think he should be remembered for."

And many would say, like Rocky, Frazier also deserves a statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where millions of tourists visit every year.

"Joe Frazier, unfortunately has never been given the credit that he deserved as a great heavyweight fighter, but in addition to being a great heavyweight fighter, he was a humanitarian," said James Binns.

Friends say he gave back and opened gyms including one in North Philadelphia which closed a few years ago.

Former State Boxing Commissioner James Binns says Frazier hit hard financial times in his later years. He saw him at a party in June.

"He had lost weight from the time I saw him before that, so obviously this cancer had already been eating away at him," said Binns.

But fans say, if anyone will fight to live, Frazier will.

"He'll throw some punches, hopefully, he will come out winning just like he always did," said Aaron Nicholas.

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philadelphia, pennsylvania, boxing, joe frazier, local/state
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