Responding to Joe Frazier’s death, former heavyweight champ and longtime nemesis, Muhammad Ali wrote in a statement: “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”
Ali’s words, full of admiration and respect for the late Frazier come some 40 years after his verbal assault of Frazier —calling him an “Uncle Tom,” “white people’s champion,” “ignorant,” and a “gorilla,” which heightened the stakes and the rivalry between the two foes.
And while Ali’s words came in the heat of competetiion, at the time, they were more damaging than any single punch that Frazier ever endured.