Smokin’ Joe

A truly great athlete, a world and Olympic champion, passed away yesterday at the age of 67. Joe Frazier was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world from 1970-73, as well as having won Olympic Gold in 1964. Frazier was a powerful puncher, with a particularly savage left hook. He is best remembered for his contentious rivalry and memorable trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali, of which he won the first (after which both fighters spent time in the hospital) and lost the last two.

It is hard for people nowadays to understand the importance and prestige that the heavyweight boxing champion of the world used to command. It was arguably the most famous position in professional sports, especially worldwide. Only real boxing fans can name the current heavyweight champ, but for much of the 20th century it was a household and worldwide name. Boxing, at least in the heavyweight division, seems to have fallen on hard times, publicity wise (still plenty of money in it), as other sports have gained in popularity. Mixed martial arts, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), have certainly stolen some of boxing’s thunder, but a large part of the lack of prestige associated with the heavyweight title is because there has not been a truly dominant heavyweight champion, both in the ring and out, in years.

The two current heavyweight champs (there are three boxing organizations that confer titles, and that is part of the problem) are the Klitschko brothers. The two brothers are actually very dominant fighters. They both have excellent records and are some of the winningest and longest reigning heavyweight champs in history. They also both have their doctorates making them the only PhD holding heavyweight champions in history. But, they are both Ukrainian and do not reside in the US, and usually don’t fight here either, and that may account for their lack of popularity.

A big reason why the heavyweight champion is no longer the greatest sportsman in the world (and remember, this is just my opinion), is because there are rarely truly great matchups in that division, and there have been just a few in a long time. People who have never heard of Frank Bruno know who George Foreman and Muhammad Ali are, even if they were not even alive when those two were fighting. Joe Frazier fought both of them. And a host of other legendary names–Oscar Bonavena and Buster Mathis, for example. Frazier lost his belt to George Foreman, another superman, who then lost to Ali. Foreman went on to dominate the heavyweight division in the mid-90s while in his late forties, another sign of the decline of the heavyweight division.

Boxers are truly fit athletes. They are strong, fast, explosive, coordinated, balanced, and they need great accuracy, stamina, and endurance. Does that list of physical attributes sound familiar? It should. Boxers also possess incredible mental toughness and great heart, exactly the non-physical attributes imparted by hard regular CrossFit (and other) training. There has always been a great appreciation for combat athletes in CrossFit, in part due to CrossFit’s early years in a martial arts school, but also in recognition of the similarities between the two athletes.

So, raise a glass to Smokin’ Joe Frazier.

RIP.

Workout:

Front Squat

5×5, add 5#

Then:

7 Rounds

7 Hang Power Snatches 115/75#

10 GHD Situps