Joe Frazier (AP Photo/File)
When we think of boxing superstar Joe Frazier, there are a few legendary fights that immediately come to mind.
There's the "Fight of the Century," Frazier's first bout with Muhammad Ali. The massively hyped fight packed Madison Square Garden and brought on riots at satellite viewing locations. Defending champion Frazier came out on top after 10 brutal rounds.
Just as exciting was Frazier's famed first fight against George Foreman. Frazier was defending his World Heavyweight Championship… but he lost to the then-undefeated Foreman.
Then, of course, there's the "Thrilla in Manila." Equally hyped, it was the final fight between Frazier and Ali – and in some ways, it was as much about politics and personality as it was about boxing prowess. This time, Ali won.
But before all those world-famous bouts, before Frazier became "Smokin' Joe" and gained world fame, Joe Frazier was an Olympian. Frazier was sent to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a replacement for heavyweight Buster Mathis, who had injured himself. Frazier distinguished himself quickly, knocking out his early competitors with ease.
In the semifinal against Russian Vadim Yemelyanov, Frazier broke a thumb in the second round… but he still managed to knock out his competitor. With no more medical assistance than soaking the thumb in Epsom salts, Frazier went on to win the final. The gold medal was his.
Written by Linnea Crowther