Didn’t have much attraction for sparring let alone boxing in our class. But our instructor, classically trained in Korean moo duk kwan, felt that the leg dominated martial art needed some additional upper body training. Besides, he boxed himself in the evenings, sometimes opponent after opponent with no break for rounds.

I had a habit of dropping my left hand after a jab and was constantly open for a right cross that was gladly offered in return. My instructor was frustrated with me and when I dropped my hand, he would call out, “Right lead!” and inevitably popped me with his gloved fist. I depended solely on my left hook which is why I was so vulnerable and it did carry a bit of weight behind it – but in this case power and stubbornness always fell to a well-timed punch.

Maybe it’s why Joe Frazier fascinated me. Even though I followed Ali after his transition from Cassius Clay, and even though he really did dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee, it was the sheer stubbornness, the momentum of Frazier, that caught my interest.

I watched their fights, Ali’s relentless skills and well-timed hits, but never completely putting Frazier away. Here was a man who relentless moved forward, his massive back the driving force behind his hands. While Ali was graceful in body and movement, Frazier drove into him with a hydraulic force. Ali was talented, almost unbeatable with his speed and power. But even he admitted, after winning a fourteen round war with Frazier, that it was the closest to death he had ever come.

Frazier’s reliance on power didn’t always work, certainly not against the largest opponent he had ever met in one George Foreman. Brute force met even a more brutish force. It was later left to Ali to defeat the man who had defeated his most respected opponent.

It was sad to hear that Frazier died although I expected it when it was first announced that he had gone into hospice. And this was only a week or two after it was revealed that he suffered from liver cancer.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier had retired quietly and left many to admire his history, his power, his sheer obsessive drive to move forward into his opponent. I’ve no doubt this is what he again tried to do…

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