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Ex-heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier died of liver cancer at a hospice, his family announced Monday night in a statement. He was sixty-seven years old.
Born Jan. 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina, Frazier, or Smokin' Joe, was known for his vicious left hook. He most famously became the first man to beat nemesis Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971, knocking him down in the fifteenth round of an epic Madison Square Garden bout in what was promoted as the Fight of the Century. Frazier, the champion, and Ali, his challenger, were paid $2.5 million each for the heavily publicized match, then an unprecedented amount for a prize fight. Since then, the names Frazier and Ali were forever inextricably linked together in the U.S. sports lexicon, with Frazier remarking to the Associated Press forty years later that the fight was "the greatest thing that ever happened in my life... I can't go nowhere where it's not mentioned."
Frazier and Ali fought two more times, once at Madison Square Garden and again in the Philippines in 1975 (otherwise known as the Thrilla in Manila). The latter fight, which Ali won by a fourteenth round technical knockout, was ranked the fifth greatest sporting event of all time by ESPN's SportsCentury.
After being diagnosed with liver cancer in September, Frazier made a string of personal appearances before he was admitted to a hospice for treatment. "I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration," his former rival Ali said in a statement. "My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."