Friend calls Joe Frazier a man of the people
To Burt Watson, Joe Frazier was more than just one of the greatest boxers who ever lived. Frazier, the former heavyweight champion who died Monday of liver cancer at 67, won perhaps the most significant fight of all time when he beat Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971, in a battle of unbeaten champions dubbed “The Fight of the Century.”
Frazier was a revered and iconic figure who had one of the most fearsome left hooks in history.
Watson, Frazier’s long-time friend and former manager, won’t remember him solely for any of his many accomplishments in the ring. It’s Joe Frazier the man whom Watson will always recall first.
“In my lifetime, Joe Frazier was the first American hero, the first legendary figure in the city of Philadelphia, that people were allowed to touch,” said Watson, who is now the site coordinator for the UFC. “He made himself available to anybody and everybody, just like the UFC fighters now. When I first started with Joe, we’d go to an average place, a neighborhood bar, a family restaurant, whatever, and people would fall off their seats when they saw Joe walking in.
“He was just an average Joe. He never worried about celebrity and he never traveled with security, unless you consider me and Peter Lyde [Frazier’s son-in-law] security. Joe was a man of the people and he was there for the fans all the time. He was a guy who loved boxing, who loved life, who loved people, and he didn’t act better than or superior to anyone. He was just a normal, average Joe and I think that’s why people loved him.”
Arum expects massive PPV sales
Manny Pacquiao’s May bout with Shane Mosley has sold the most pay-per-views so far in 2011, with the number at about 1.34 million, promoter Bob Arum said.
But Arum is extremely confident that Saturday’s Pacquiao bout against Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas will wind up surpassing the total of the Pacquiao-Mosley fight and become the year’s largest pay-per-view.
Arum said “that’s guaranteed” and estimated it would wind up between 1.4-1.5 million. The two largest non-heavyweight pay-per-views are the 2007 bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya, which sold 2.45 million, and the 1999 bout between De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, which did 1.4 million.
Marquez hasn’t been a huge draw on his own, but he’s been a great “B” side in the past. His 2009 fight with Mayweather sold 1.1 million.
Arum said the large Hispanic population, the awareness of Marquez by Pacquiao’s rabid Filipino fan base and the successful mainstream marketing of Pacquiao are why he’s willing to guarantee that the fight will wind up being Pacquiao’s best seller.
“You’ve got to remember, 17 or 18 percent of the country is now Hispanic, and they adore Marquez,” Arum said. “There are huge numbers of Filipinos who are very familiar with Marquez because of his body of work with Pacquiao. Those two elements of the population, plus Anglos who follow boxing and who are now intrigued with Pacquiao because of the mainstream programming means that, without any shadow a doubt, this will be the biggest Manny Pacquiao fight from a pay-per-view standpoint ever. The biggest ever, which means more than he did with Cotto, more than he did with [Antonio] Margarito, more than he did with De La Hoya, more than he did with [Ricky] Hatton.
“That’s guaranteed. Now, how much bigger, I don’t know, but a lot of that has to do with the popularity of Marquez and also the fact that the awareness of Manny has been built up.”
Arum noted that the fight sold out in two weeks and said there is not a ticket to be had. Ticket resellers are asking in excess of $2,000 for a single seat on StubHub. One pair of seats on the floor, in Row A of Section A, is going for $13,890 apiece.
Arum said that’s the best way to judge the interest in a fight.
“The Mosley fight ultimately sold out, but it sold out at the end,” Arum said. “This fight sold out, at higher prices, in two weeks. Absolutely sold out. You can’t get a ticket any place. The aftermarket, which is where to see really how hot a fight is, you look at what the brokers are charging for a ticket. You don’t need me, on the Internet you’ll find that out. They’re [asking] huge prices.”
Arum said closed circuit sales to bars and restaurants around the country are also trending higher than they did for the Mosley fight, which is another indicator of how big he expects it to get.
• James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo put on a sensational first round in Cancun, Mexico, on Saturday, in which hundreds of punches were thrown and both men were down and nearly out. But Fight of the Year? Please. Not even close. After the first round, it was a one-sided beatdown by Kirkland.
• By the way, it was sad to hear HBO play-by-play man Jim Lampley soft-sell the reason why Angulo can’t fight in the U.S. Lampley said Angulo “experienced visa problems.” Angulo was deported because not only was he in the country illegally, but because he had helped smuggle six other illegal aliens into the country. That’s more than a “visa problem.” That’s a crime.
• So Floyd Mayweather Jr. reserved May 5, 2012, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for a fight. Big whoop. Mayweather keeps rambling on about Manny Pacquiao “taking the test” in order to fight, but he conveniently ignores that Pacquiao has agreed to comply to the letter with the drug testing regimen that was done in Mayweather’s last two fights. If he really wants the fight that would be the biggest in boxing history, all he needs to do is say so and quit with the games.
• On the other hand, classy move by Mayweather, who announced on Twitter on Monday that he would pay the costs of Frazier’s funeral services.
• I scored each of the first two Pacquiao-Marquez bouts for Marquez. But on Saturday, I expect Pacquiao to score a mid-to-late round stoppage. Marquez simply isn’t the fighter he used to be.
• Arum said he would consider a Pacquiao fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, ranked No. 3 in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound poll, only if Martinez agreed to fight at 150 pounds and to weigh in on the morning of the fight. Otherwise, he said, Martinez would rehydrate too much and be too big for Pacquiao.
I had a huge medical school test on March 9, 1971, but another classmate and I made the decision to view the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight the night before. Actor Burt Lancaster was the emcee and stars were everywhere. Joe, a natural lefty, threw the punch of the second half of the century that night. The camera played it time after time. I still have the Ring Magazine and Sports Illustrated covers showing Ali hitting the deck. Such a night boxing has not seen since. Joe remained classy until the end. Seeing him was a highlight in my life, one I will never forget.
T.D. Carey, M.D.
Great story, Dr. Carey. Ali and Frazier left an indelible mark on the sport and the world. The significance of that fight can not be understated.
I expect that Manny Pacquiao will probably knock out Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday, but I also expect that you won’t note that he knocked out a lightweight. You’ll be like all the other boxing writers who jump on the Pacman bandwagon without the facts. No matter what he does, he needs to defeat Floyd “Money” Mayweather before you can call him the best. And you and I both know what will happen if those two ever get into the ring.
Tyrone, I’m glad you’re psychic to know A) what will happen on Saturday, B) what I plan to write about it and C) who I rate as the pound-for-pound best. I will note this, though: If Pacquiao does knock out the lightweight, as you call him, it will be something that Floyd did not do. As I recall, they fought in 2009 and Marquez was the same lightweight you now derisively call him and wasn’t knocked out. I’ve been voting for Mayweather in first in my pound-for-pound poll, by the way, but let’s be honest: Those things are opinions that don’t matter. They’re just for fun and discussion. Pacquiao has agreed to Mayweather’s drug testing demands entirely. From my point of view, the onus is on Floyd now to get the fight made and to not create more artificial barriers that would prevent it.
“Sit down, son. It’s all over. Nobody will ever forget what you did here today.” – The late, great trainer Eddie Futch, to Joe Frazier, after Futch asked referee Carlos Padilla to stop his third bout with Muhammad Ali following the 14th round in Manila, Philippines.
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