Smokin' Joe Frazier leaves this world as one of heavyweight boxing's greatest ever icons. And despite being born in South Carolina, and having made his bones in Philadelphia, he's also a true Madison Square Garden legend. Frazier passed Monday night of liver cancer at the age of 67, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most feared fighters of all-time, one who etched his name in boxing annals with many a memorable performance in The Big Apple.
Frazier's most famous bouts at The Garden were of course his epic clashes with Muhammad Ali. The perfect foils for each other both in and out of the ring, Ali and Frazier's careers are both largely defined by their trilogy. They first met in "The Fight of the Century", when Frazier won a unanimous 15-round decision to become undisputed Heavyweight Champ, handing Ali his first professional loss in March of 1971. Frazier and Ali met in a rematch almost three years later at Madison Square Garden, this time with Ali avenging the earlier defeat. They'd meet one more time, on Oct. 1, 1975 in the famous "Thrilla in Manila". It was another Ali victory, but both Frazier and Ali were so battered and beaten afterwards that neither was the same ever again.
Frazier carved out much of his illustrious career at The World's Most Famous Arena before his bouts with Ali. Overall, Frazier fought 11 times at The Garden with a 10-1 record. He became Heavyweight Champion at MSG in what many believe to be one of his best performances in knocking out Jimmy Ellis in February of 1970. Frazier floored Ellis - who had yet to meet the canvas in his professional career to that point - twice in the fourth round to win Ali's vacated belt. Prior to defeating Ellis, Frazier earned a seventh round TKO victory over Jerry Quarry in what The Ring Magazine named its 1969 Fight of the Year. He also defeated the likes of Oscar Bonavena, George Chuvalo and Buster Mathis at the famed building at on Seventh Avenue.
Frazier's many bouts at The Garden are part of the folklore that earned the building the moniker of "The Mecca of Boxing". It's a term that no longer holds much weight, as the biggest fights are routinely fought in Las Vegas these days - or even in Europe if you count the soccer stadiums consistently filled by the Klitschko brothers. There will always be a place for boxing at Madison Square Garden, but its reputation was built in the 1960s and 70s, smack in the middle of Frazier's heyday. Though he's a Philly guy through and through, Smokin' Joe Frazier crafted much of one of the great boxing careers of the 20th century right here in the heart of New York City. For that, he should forever be considered a Madison Square Garden legend.
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