PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Frazier had to throw his greatest punch to knock down “The Greatest.”
A vicious left hook from Frazier put Muhammad Ali on the canvas in the 15th round in March 1971 when Frazier became the first man to beat Ali in the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden.
“That was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life,” Frazier said at the time.
It was his biggest night, one that would never come again.
The relentless, undersized heavyweight ruled the division as champion, then spent a lifetime trying to fight his way out of Ali's shadow.
Frazier died Monday night after a brief battle with liver cancer at 67.
“I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Ali said in a statement. “My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
Frazier's death was announced in a statement by his family, who asked to be allowed to grieve privately and said they would announce “our father's homecoming celebration” as soon as possible.
Though slowed in his later years and his speech slurred by the toll of punches taken in the ring, Frazier was still active on the autograph circuit in the months before he died. In September, he went to Las Vegas, where he signed autographs in the lobby of the MGM Grand shortly before Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s fight against Victor Ortiz.
Born in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan. 12, 1944, Frazier took up boxing early after watching weekly fights on the black-and-white television on his family's small farm.
Photo: Joe Frazier