Legend Frazier passes away, Klitschkos dominate

Boxing mourned former undisputed heavyweight champ Joe Frazier in 2011, while the Klitschko brothers completed their domination of the division to hold all the major belts.

Updated: December 19, 2011 13:01 IST
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Berlin: Boxing mourned former undisputed heavyweight champ Joe Frazier in 2011, while the Klitschko brothers completed their domination of the division to hold all the major belts.

Frazier died in Philadelphia in November after a brief battle with liver cancer. He was 67.

"Smokin' Joe" captured two major heavyweight titles in his career and famously beat Muhammad Ali in New York in 1971 in a bout dubbed The Fight of the Century.

He was a huge part of the heyday of boxing's heavyweight division in the 1970s and finished his stellar career with 32 wins (27 knockouts), four losses and one draw.

All four losses came at the hands of just two other legendary fighters from that era: Ali and George Foreman.

Tributes to Frazier came from across the weight categories with multiple world champion Manny Pacquiao acknowleding the loss of a "great champion and ambassador".

Ali said: "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration."

Ali's and Frazier's trilogy of fights had the world transfixed.

Frazier, the quiet former farmhand from South Carolina, was the first man to silence Ali at Madison Square Garden in 1971.

His unanimous 15-round victory was watched by an estimated global television audience of 300 million, with Frazier's classic left hook flooring Ali in the last round.

Ali took his revenge at the Garden in 1974, with their third meeting coming the following year in the 'Thrilla in Manila'.

It was in this epic, brutal slugfest in crippling conditions that Frazier cemented his place as one of the greatest champions the ring has ever known, his trainer Eddie Futch having to step in to halt the show after the 14th round.

Despite being barely able to stand on his own two feet, Frazier begged to come out for the 15th round.

Ali, in his inimitable way, described the experience as "the closest thing to dying that I know of".

This may have been the last time they raised their gloves in anger at each other but their sparring continued out of the ring for years after.

Frazier, bitter at articulate Ali's personal taunts, was unable to shed the scars of being called 'Uncle Tom' and 'gorilla', once suggesting that his old nemesis's struggles with Parkinson's were God's way of punishing him for his behaviour out of the ring.

But in 2009 Frazier told Sports Illustrated that he had forgiven his old rival.

Brothers Vitali, the WBC champion, and Wladimir Klitschko now dominate the heavyweight division.

Wladimir finally silenced David Haye's taunts to relieve the brash Brit of his WBA belt to add to his collection of IBF, WBO and IBO crowns.

The eagerly anticipated clash in July was marked by Haye's pre-fight taunts threatening to expose Klitschko as a 'fraud' and to dismantle the 'Ukrainian robot' he maligned in the build-up to the unification bout.

On a damp night in Hamburg, Haye's promises proved to be empty and, hampered by a broken toe, he failed to get behind Klitschko's impressive defence and the Ukrainian won the fight unanimously.

As promised, Haye celebrated his 31st birthday in October by retiring, but the showman is in talks with Vitali to climb back in the ring in March.

"If a fight comes against Haye, I will knock him out," promised Vitali, who first faces Britain's Dereck Chisora in Munich in March.

"Then there will be no questions left. David is the best in the world: not as a boxer, but as a loudmouth."

It remains to be seen whether Pacquiao and Floyd Joy Mayweather, Jr. will climb into the ring in 2012.

Pacquiao defended his WBO welterweight belt twice this year, but went the distance on both occasions.

He saw off Shane Mosley with a unanimous decision in May, then defended his title for the third time since stepping up a weight with a majority decision against Juan Manuel Marquez in November.

Generally, it was a bad 12 months for British fighters.

Carl Froch was beaten when Andre Ward won the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament last Saturday with a unanimous decision in Atlantic City which left the Brit 'devastated'.

As a future opponent, Ward could now face Welshman Nathan Cleverly, the WBO light-heavyweight title-holder, and Britain's sole surviving world champion.

Amir Khan lost both his WBA and IBF light-welterweight titles in early December in a controversial narrow points defeat to Lamont Peterson in Washington.

Khan crucially had two points deducted by referee Joseph Cooper for pushing, insists the decision was unfair and is hoping his appeal will lead to the result being overturned and he wants a rematch in Las Vegas in 2012.

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