The boxing world has just lost one of its legendary fighters. Former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who gave Muhammad Ali his first professional defeat in 1971, succumbed to liver cancer on Monday, November 7 just weeks after he was diagnosed with the illness. He was 67.
"He passed away about two or three hours ago," his business manager Leslie Wolff said in a brief phone interview with New York Daily News. "He was home [in Philadelphia] when he died. There was some family there with him. It was a big surprise. I expected that he would have a couple of more weeks left. In fact, I was talking to people about cancer treatment from around the world."
Frazier's family has since issued a statement confirming the sad news. "We, the family of the 1964 Olympic boxing heavyweight gold-medalist, former heavyweight boxing champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame member Smokin' Joe Frazier, regret to inform you of his passing," the statement read.
"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. Respectfully, we request time to grieve privately as a family. Our father's home going celebration will be announced as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding."
Upon hearing news of Frazier's passing, 69-year-old Ali said in a statement, "The world has lost a great Champion." The former boxer, who fought Frazier three times, including the famous "Thrilla in Manila" fight in 1975, added, "I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."
Other boxers offering their thoughts on the passing of Frazier included Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.. Pacquiao was quoted as saying, "Boxing lost a great champion, and the sport lost a great ambassador," while Mayweather tweeted, "My Condolences go out to the family of the late great Joe Frazier. #TheMoneyTeam will pay for his Funeral services."
Condolences also came from NBA player Reggie Bush and tennis star Serena Williams. Bush tweeted, "R.I.P. the legend himself Mr. Joe Frazier. May God rest his soul," and Williams wrote, "Joe Frazier, you were an icon and pioneer for people like me. Inspiring and loved, your presence will be missed."
Songstress LeAnn Rimes also remembered the late boxer by writing, "R.I.P. Joe Frazier. What an amazing fighter. So sad to lose such a talent and a legend. Blessings to his family." R&B singer Usher, meanwhile, paid tribute by tweeting, " 'Joe Frazier' Boxing Legend Forever. What he did in this lifetime will last forever. He will live on though those who follow his greatness!!"