LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Former undisputed world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, the epic rival to fellow boxing legend Muhammad Ali, was mourned on Tuesday in US boxing mecca Las Vegas by fighters he helped inspire.
Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino icon who defends his welterweight crown against Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday, said Frazier’s legacy will endure well beyond death, which came for Frazier on Monday at age 67 of liver cancer.
“His memory in boxing will remain,” Pacquiao said. “We lost a great champion. He was a great fighter. He left a huge legacy as a fighter. We won’t forget the fights he gave Muhammad Ali.”
Pacquiao was born three years after Frazier fought Ali for the third and final time in the “Thrilla in Manila”, but a young Pacquiao sought out the video of that fight to see the legendary bout an older generation raved about.
Pacquiao wants to follow in the Ali-Frazier footsteps one day with his own epic bout in his homeland.
“My dream is to fight a big fight like that in the Philippines,” Pacquiao said. “I hope to find a promoter who can promote that. The problem is it’s hard to promote. It costs a lot of money.”
Ali, in a statement, paid his ultimate respect to the first man who ever beat him in the ring, Frazier taking a unanimous 15-round decision at Madison Square Garden in 1971.
“The world has lost a great champion,” Ali said. “I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
Frazier went 32-4 with one drawn and 27 knockouts over his career, but for long-time fight promoter Bob Arum, the Manila fight was simply the greatest bout in boxing history.
“The third fight was the greatest fight in the history of boxing. Ever. The greatest fight ever,” Arum said. “It’s something I’ll never forget. He proved himself a great man and a great warrior.”
Former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson posted his remembrances on his Twitter page, saying, “Today is a sad yet remarkable day as we mourn the death of boxing legend Joe Frazier & honor him by celebrating his amazing accomplishments.”
Tyson marveled at the Ali-Frazier rivalry, which saw Frazier win the first fight but then lose a 1974 rematch in a 12-round decision at New York and be stopped by Ali after 14 rounds in Manila.
“Frazier and Ali were quintessential the apex of pedigree fighting in which each man would not give an inch until they were dead,” Tyson said. “Their era was competitive fighting at the highest level. As a young fighter it has always been an honor to be compared to Frazier.”
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman posted a Twitter message that simply said, “Good night Joe Frazier. I love you dear friend.”
Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated welterweight who has refused to fight Pacquiao in what many fans hoped might be a modern epic boxing trilogy such as Ali and Frazier staged, offered to pay for Frazier’s funeral.
“RIP Smokin Joe. My thoughts and prayers go out to to the Frazier family. We lost an all time great,” Mayweather posted on his Twitter page.
“My condolences go out to the family of the late great Joe Frazier. TheMoneyTeam will pay for his Funeral services.”
Bernard Hopkins, the oldest world champion in boxing history at age 46 after winning the WBC world lightweight crown earlier this year, mourned a fellow Philadelphia fight legend.
“Joe Frazier is an icon, and he will always be remembered that way,” said Hopkins. “He had great discipline and a strong will to win. It’s a very sad day in Philadelphia and all over the world.
“Joe is a person who will never be imitated or emulated. His legacy in boxing will never be duplicated.”
Even beyond boxing, Frazier touched sports stars, notably women’s tennis superstar Serena Williams, who tweeted, “Joe Frazier you were a icon and pioneer for people like me. Inspiring and loved. Your presence will be missed.”
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