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The Hard Knocks of Joe Frazier

Life is hard for the underdog.

Imagine, for example, a world-class boxer who spends his whole career—his whole life, even—in the shadow of one of the most flamboyantly gifted individuals in the history of organized sport.

But now that the dust has settled on the taunts and the hype and the politics, we’re ready to join the chorus saying it: Joe Frazier was a fascinating guy.

Perfectly Embodied:This is a fighter’s face. You can see the bruises, the broken bones. Ali went after him for being ugly, and for good reason: there are a lot more fighters with faces like Frazier than Ali. But with a few smiles, he made it work just fine.

Words of Wisdom:“Never was Frazier happier than with his heart up on the line against some other man’s heart, let the bullets fly—his heart was there to stand up at the last. Sooner or later, the others almost all fell down.”Norman Mailer, Life Magazine

The Backstory: It’s hard to do better than this Esquire piece, but suffice it to say, he came up hard. And as the tributes start to surface from all corners, it’s worth remembering just how far he made it by being tougher, faster and meaner than everyone else in the world.

Raise a glass, gentlemen.