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Old 12-29-2011, 05:54 AM   #1
general zod
Into Darkness
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Default The Man called Joe Frazier

The plan:
The man called Joe Frazier
The Frazier-Ali feud
The sad tale of Patterson I
The sad tale of Patterson II
The man called Muhammad Ali
The sad tale of Patterson III
Mike Tyson goes to war
The Frazier-Foreman fight
The build up to Manila
The Thrilla in Manila
The sad tale of Teddy Atlas
Frazier: life goes on

The man called Joe Frazier
The Heavyweights
A series of threads about Frazier, Ali, Patterson and Tyson


Nearing the end of the century, Muhammad Ali still swam inside of
Joe Frazier like a determined bacillus. Despite the advice of a few
friends and some of his children, Frazier was still keeping an obsessional
hold on Ali, sometimes with a freefall into the void between
regret and revenge; at other times his contempt just lay there hissing.
Much time had passed since my visit with Ali, and if he had been a
sonata of sometimes bewildered withdraw, Frazier was a brass section
insistent on sending out a triumphal arch of sound not consonant
with his early self. The usually remote Frazier had taken on, ironically,
the attitude and coloration of the Ali that had once stuck words
on him as if he were a store window dummy.
“Didja bring any money?” were his first words; these were also
on the lips of all who worked around him. Did he ask me for money
when he had had a half dozen fights and moved over the ring like a
confused animal with a trap on its leg? “Well, for old times’ sake,” he
relented. He growled about what he thought to be a lack of exposure,
the neglect of the public, how his own greatness was being forgotten
and how Ali was being made into a god. “A tin one,” he
added. “I made him what he is.” Including his current state of
health? “I made him what he is,” Joe said. “Take it any way you
want.” He threw up his hands and said: “Look at him, can’t even talk
and he makin’ money hand and fist.” Was he, Frazier, secure financially?
“I got more money than him,” he said.

On a bad ego day, Frazier could not turn few
directions without an instant pick-me-up. Right now, he was getting
a boost of another kind from a jug of rock candy, lemon and brandy;
he was not an attack drinker, but a measured one who saw periodic
belts as an elixir, a protection against bodily invasions. For all those
pictures of a wounded Ali and his own steady assertions of singularity,
Frazier was not a natural or even a self-made egotist. As a fighter,
he had always had a cheerful pride and put high value on proper
behavior; he was a rule-follower and, from the signs plastered on the
gym walls, now a diligent rule-maker of gym etiquette and moral
code. “I’m the boss here,” he said, visiting the jug again with a lighter
gulp. “Act right, or you’re gone. Act like a real fighter.” His standard of
dereliction of conduct was Ali. “He’s out there,” Joe said, pointing.
“On his tail wonderin’ what hit him.”
Frazier was fifty-five, and he sat in a dark little room, just off the
main office, a bit frazzled, wearing a black feathered Borsalino hat,
an insistent tie on a purple shirt against a well-worn, pinstripe gray
suit, indicating that he was not getting ready to climb into the ring
down below and demonstrate the virtues and intricacies of the left
hook. He looked like someone who was on his way out the door to
check on his stable of working women, but far from it: he and God
had always been bosom-close, and he always believed that he had
been selected by Him to knock the anti-Christ, Ali, down several
pegs. Joe saw himself as the special issue of the Almighty; the
Muslims were infidels and Ali was their serpent. “A man can’t think
he’s God,” Frazier said, “and He put me on earth for one reason,
made me a fighter, for when the day come I go and slay a false god.”
Unlike Ali, Frazier had been a muted religionist; now he was in fervent
lockstep with the rage of righteous public witness in sports.
God preoccupied
Frazier in our chat until the subject of his health came up.


“I got sugar diabetes. I got hypertension. I got headaches. Pain just about
everywhere. What else you want me to have?” Scattered vials of pills
suggested a longer list. It was no secret that a medical specialist friend
had made at least four impromptu visits to the gym over the years, and
each time personally whisked Frazier off to the hospital for convalescence.
“I’ll outlive him, count on it,” Joe said. By now, him needed no further
Frazier, divorced, was more pleased to report that his ***ual virility
was levels above merely operative. Having had eleven children, all
of them grown now, he was (with his son Marvis, his constant
shadow) a visible figure on the club circuit—and apparently not a
bystander. His financial picture was easier to gauge, if only for the
location of his gym, near an ever-expanding university that will need
the land. The gym, with his name embossed with a Roman look above
the front, was a well-known center in a gunned-out area. His aim was
to keep it as a place of work and instruction, not to let it become a pit
stop for drugs; he was vigilant for gossip, or any furtive transaction. He
lived upstairs in a vast, somber loft, a tidy and favorable place for the
chewing of unlimited angst.
French workers have an observation when a coworker shows signs
of wear: “The trade is entering his body.” With Joe, as with Ali, it was
long past entry, it had taken up firm residence.

Physically, he had a few scuffs here and there, but I
wondered: How were his eyes?
It was not idle curiosity, for there was much rumor that he was
going blind.
“How is your eye now?” he was asked. “Or eyes?”
“In good shape.”
“Show me.”
“Put up some fingers,” he said. He looked, looked again, then
laughed, saying, “Which hand?” When he stopped laughing, he said,
“That’s four on your left hand . . . one on the right . . . five on the
right. See. I got an operation some years ago. See good now.”
“Suppose I move across the room?”
“Don’t have to do that,” he said, quite annoyed. “I can see.”
Suspicion still lingered over whether his vision had been totally
corrected; he had diabetes. Frazier stood up from his chair, half bent,
and bumped into furniture, yelling out for someone to help him find
“my pain pills.”


He suddenly wanted to know who I thought were the top five heavyweights
in history; I did not have enough insensitivity to tell him that
his old trainer, Eddie Futch, had left him off his list. I told him: Ali,
Joe Louis, Marciano, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Frazier—with Sonny
Liston a very close sixth. “Well,” Joe said, “right from the top you got
that all wrong.” Where would he place Ali? “Not in the top five, for
certain. I beat him three times.” He waved away the public record,

saying, “I don’t care about that. I know in my heart! He do, too.” Of
the latter, it is a lock bet that such an admission by Ali would never
be forthcoming—even in a delirium.
Having dismissed Ali as a man and a fighter, indeed tossed him
into a pile of subalterns, Frazier did not seem to have any place farther
to go with him—yet held on to him as if he was there and would
disappear in a second, and in doing so would take him along. “When
a man gets in your blood like that,” Frazier said, “you can’t never let
go. No matter. Yesterday is today for me. He never die for me.” Ali in
mist, Frazier in shadow walled in by heavier shadow. So unmoored
from what they were and did, the ghosts of Manila.


The Frazier-Ali feud


Last edited by general zod; 12-29-2011 at 06:54 AM.
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