By Steve O'Keeffe --
A friend died this past Monday. Achilles - or perhaps more accurately Ajax. A man who suffered the “swings and arrows” - and walked off the battlefield intact. Following ‘enry the ‘ammer Cooper - the Brit bruiser who seated Ali - Smokin’ Joe parts the ropes and leaves the ring. This time there was no Eddie Futch to call the fight. Will we see the Smoke’s like again?
Will our “erudite” world that’s given up making things and shies away from hard decisions ever again sire new champions? Is the greatness gone with the grime?
Three years ago we hosted Joe Frazier in D.C. - 12 rounds with Smokin’ Joe. To say he punched above his weight would be like observing he had a decent left hook. Mr. Frazier - always gracious, always charming. Shook hands, flirted, and signed autographs until deep into the fight - I mean night. He sang, he smiled, as he sparred with the crowd.
I had the honor of sharing a drink with him one evening. Three ringside anecdotes:
1. Joe told me he weighed just 193 lbs when he fought the colossus George Foreman
2. Stupidly, I asked Joe who was the greatest heavyweight of all time? Dumbest question of my life - never lead with your chin son. “That would be me,” Joe Frazier replied
3. When the champ needed to walk back to the restroom, he asked to hold onto my shoulder. A man that Ali couldn’t put down holding on to my scrawny limbs…
We’ll miss you champ. If there’s a heavyweight heaven, they just got a real contender.