SPORTS

Frazier dies after fight with cancer, family says

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight champion who handed Muhammad Ali his first defeat yet had to live forever in his shadow, has died after a brief final fight with liver cancer. He was 67.

Frazier in 2011. (Photo: Associated Press)

The family issued a release confirming the boxer's death on Monday night.

Frazier, who took on Ali in three momentous fights in the 1970s - including the epic "Thrilla in Manilla" - had been under home hospice care after being diagnosed just weeks ago with the cancer that took his life, a family friend said. Until then, Frazier had been doing regular autograph appearances, including one in Las Vegas in September.

Smokin' Joe was a small yet ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early. It was the left hook that dropped Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in the so-called "Fight of the Century."

Though he beat Ali in that fight, Frazier lost the final two and for many years was bitter about the role Ali forced him to play as his foil.

"The Greatest" reacts

Muhammad Ali says he will always remember Joe Frazier with admiration and respect.

Frazier and Ali will be linked forever, both heavyweight champions and bitter rivals in the boxing ring who fought each other during three epic bouts in the 1970s.

Ali won the last two, cementing his legend as The Greatest, and was as rough on Frazier outside the ring as he was between the ropes. He called him a gorilla and mocked him as an Uncle Tom.

But after Frazier's death, Ali issued a brief statement with kind words for Smokin' Joe.

"The world has lost a great champion," he said. "My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."

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