Still Smokin’: Frazier’s Body Is Battered, But Spirit Isn’t

By Mike Rutsey
Updated: October 28, 2006

TORONTO — Smokin’ Joe Frazier eased out of the limo, gathered himself under his feet and with the support of a cane he made his way slowly up the steps of the Liberty Grand Complex to meet an old adversary.

As he reached the top step, Frazier’s face lit up as he greeted and hugged Toronto’s George Chuvalo, two old heavyweights who met in the ring almost 40 years ago.

That night in New York — July 19, 1967 — a Frazier left almost detached Chuvalo’s right eye, stopping their fight in the fourth round.

Those were the days when Frazier was moving on up, a fighter with savage skills and the bravest of hearts. He would go on to win the heavyweight crown, have three legendary fights with Muhammad Ali and stamp himself as one of the greatest fighters of his era.

Now 62 and his body betraying him, the result of an automobile accident three years ago, Smokin’ Joe and Chuvalo were reunited Friday night at the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Boxing in the Ballroom fundraiser.

Dressed in black, complete with a leather hat, Frazier appeared older than his 62 years, yet still retained an air of regalness which belies his current state of affairs.


A recent New York Times article paints the portrait of a slightly bitter, financially strapped former heavy-weight champ who lives in a tiny apartment above his Philadelphia gym, his money long gone and his legacy not secured.

But that man was not present last night as Frazier appeared to be content and pleased to be a big part of the show.

“Life’s not beating me down,” Frazier said, his face showing sparkle and fun. “Life is life. I love living and I like to see people happy, sign autographs, take pictures, do things with my fans all night long because they’re the ones that made me. They’re the ones that keep me being known so why not spend time and give them a little love, a little recognition.”

Still, it’s hard not to think that Frazier hasn’t received his proper due. Muhammad Ali is the “Greatest.” Ali and George Foreman, who flattened Frazier in ’73, are certainly more beloved and in the public eye.

“How much recognition can I get?” he said. “I’ve been everywhere, I’ve been places that I don’t think that Muhammad (has). I’ve covered the world.

“I think I got the recognition that I needed. I wasn’t a wild guy, I wasn’t running my mouth unless I had something to say. “I’m not going to let you know ‘I’m Joe Frazier, I’m here,’ ” he said mocking Ali. “I’m not that kind of guy.”

He is who and for that he pulls no punches.

“Fast cars and slow ladies have beat me up real bad,” he adds. “The Lord’s being good to me and that’s why I try to be good to everybody.”