Frazier and Ali—the names are inseparable in the annals of boxing, but for veteran sports writer Dave Anderson, Joe Frazier is the ultimate champ. The boxer who died yesterday "was the better better fighter," writes Anderson in the New York Times. "And the better man." He thumped Ali in their classic 1971 fight at Madison Square Garden, and while he lost the "Thrilla in Manila" a few years later, you wouldn't have known it by seeing the two fighters afterward. (Ali could barely move, while Frazier was dancing.)
Frazier shone outside the ring, too, maybe thanks to his humble roots in South Carolina, where he picked vegetables for 15 cents a crate and helped his one-armed father on handyman jobs. ("I was his left arm.") Frazier had genuine "class," writes Anderson. "The record shows that Joe Frazier lost four fights—two against Ali (a mostly forgotten 12-round decision in a nontitle fight between their two classics) and two knockouts by George Foreman. But to me, somehow he always won."