DEERFIELD BEACH, FLA.—Legendary promoter Don King, who promoted Joe Frazier in the finale of Frazier’s phenomenal trilogy with Muhammad Ali, 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila,” made the following statement from his South Florida home after learning last night of the death of his longtime friend:
“Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the embodiment of what a great heavyweight champion and person should be. He was a great gladiator. When Smokin’ Joe came to the ring, you knew you had someone who was coming to fight. I was proud to have known and promoted him, and I was honored to call him a friend.
“The courage Smokin’ Joe showed in “The Thrilla in Manila”—answering every Ali onslaught with an equally withering response—will remain in the hearts and minds of boxing fans around the globe forever. It was one of the most dramatic fights in history. Although the warrior inside Smokin’ Joe wanted to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, his chief second and friend Eddie Futch acted as more than a corner man to step in and refuse to let him continue, so he could live to fight another day and smoke ’em some more.
“One cannot underestimate the contribution Smokin’ Joe and Ali made to progress and change by creating the space, through their talent, for black men to be seen, visible and relevant. The Thrilla in Manila helped make America better.
“Not only was he a great fighter but also a great man. He lived as he fought with courage and commitment at a time when African Americans in all spheres of life were engaged in a struggle for emancipation and respect. Smokin’ Joe brought honor, dignity and pride for his people, the AMERICAN people, and brought the nation together as only sports can do.