Former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier dies

Former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier has died, his family has confirmed.

Frazier won Olympic gold in 1964 after going to the Games as a replacement for the injured Buster Mathis, who had beaten him in the trials.

He won the professional heavyweight title in 1970 by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round at Madison Square Garden and defended it successfully four times before losing it to George Foreman in 1973.

Frazier is best remembered for his three bouts with Muhammad Ali, the first of which saw him unify the world title when he inflicted Ali’s first professional defeat in the so-called “Fight of the Century” in 1971.

Ali and Frazier

But in two further fights, including the epic “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975, it was Ali who was victorious.

Ali, 69, said yesterday upon hearing of Frazier’s illness: “The news about Joe is hard to believe and even harder to accept.

“My family and I are keeping Joe and his family in our daily prayers. Joe has a lot of friends pulling for him – and I’m one of them.”

Smokin’ Joe died in Philadelphia aged 67 – a month after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

A family statement said: “He transitioned from this life as ‘One of God’s Men’, on the eve of November 7, 2011 at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“We thank you for your prayers for our father and vast outpouring of love and support.

“Our father’s home going celebration will be announced as soon as possible.”