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Book cover of Smokin' Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin' Joe Frazier - Fair use photo - http://amzn.com


September 2010 Joe Frazier was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in Beaufort, South Carolina, United States - Akira Kouchiyama - TheDigitel Beaufort photo







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November 7, 2011 will be locked in our memory as three sports figures emerged from our past with two dieing and one celebrating being alive. Who are the names? Joe Frazier died and Magic Johnson has survived the HIV virus for 20 years. The third is a name not known around the world. His name is Phal Samphors a promising 19-year-old basketball player with the Cambodian national team who was killed in a motorcycle accident while taking money to his mother only days before he was to depart to play in the SEA Games


Wednesday November 9, 2011


The death of former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier came somewhat as a shock but at 67 years of age he had a good life of success and achievement. Liver cancer took his life.

While in the news business we never covered a Frazier fight as his career was before our time. We did however meet and talk with Frazier after his retirement and reminisced about our mutual relationships.

Who? Joe Frazier

What? HBO press function at the ACE AWARDS

Where? Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles California

When? Early 1990's

Why? HBO promoting a film they did about three of the best ever heavyweight boxing champions in the world including Frazier, Mohamed Ali and Ken Norton.

The room was darkly lit but crowded as HBO had the presence of the three of the best fighters ever during a time period where each one had an advantage over the other. Frazier lost to Ali in two of their three bouts. Norton split with Ali including breaking his jaw but never fought Frazier. There are some that would argue that Norton won both fights with Ali.

I interviewed Norton and Frazier. Ali came up to me and threw a fake punch at me with a twinkle in his eyes but didn't speak since he had Parkinson's disease.

Norton's interview worked for radio since his speech was clear and I was able to edit together a show with him talking about the success of his son Ken Norton Jr. being a successful professional football player.

It was strange seeing the three fighters socializing together after almost killing each other in the ring during their careers. Along with George Foreman it was a period of having four of the most competitive fighters going against each other during the same era. A one point after Interviewing Norton and talking to Frazier all three of us were together and that's when Ali faked a punch at me.

Frazier and I talked on a personal level as we had a mutual acquaintance and both of us came from Philadelphia the setting of the Rocky films. We talked about the changes in our town since I had moved away from the area. His speech was blurred so I listened intently but didn't talk about any of his fights as I knew it wouldn't be clear enough to be used in a radio feature. There was no bullshit from any of them as they all responded in a straight forward manner.

The links between Frazier and I were we had the same boss at different times. When I was in school I worked a part time job as a stock boy delivering the office supply needs in an 18-story government structure in Philadelphia. My boss Clarkie had the contract on the building.

After Frazier won the USA's only 1964 Olympic boxing gold medal Clarkie was one of the people that involved in a consortium of businessmen that backed Frazier's professional boxing career in forming the Cloverly Group. Stock was issued as I recall for $100 a share.

That was the hook of our conversation as Frazier's eyes lit up recalling those days. "He (Clarkie) died you know," Frazier informed me. No I didn't know but Joe was the messenger of Clarkie's death. This time CNN was the first messenger of Frazier's.

Frazier had a 16-year boxing career record of 27 W - 4 L - 1 D

From that experience I will always remember "Smokin Joe" Frazier as being a real down to earth good guy.


As a sports reporter I've shaken the hands of many an athlete. At that HBO event all three of those grate fighters did not rate as my top 3 biggest hand that I've ever shook even though big hands helps their business. The top three are former NFL Hall of Fame player Jim Brown, former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman and former NFL football player for the LA Rams Willie Ellison. It always brought to mind when as an aspiring athlete wanting to become a professional I was informed that I would never make it.

Talent wasn't the criteria. The person that informed me had major sports experience but I can't recall who it was. What I do remember is that he said I could not become a pro athlete because I had small hands and you need big hands to be a pro. So far he was right as I've never shook the hand of a pro athlete with hands as small as mine.

Other biggest hands include Norton, Ali and Frazier as well as former NFL player Pete Pihos and former heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis. It's strange that all of the BIG HAND athletes I've shaken hands with are boxers and football players.

In the NFL a running back is not only valuable when they gain yards but a greater value if they DON'T FUMBLE the ball. Big hands play a part in that success.

Part 2 - Magic Johnson has survived with HIV 20 Years - The tragic death of Cambodian national team basketball player Phal Samphors


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