The late Joe Frazier’s career is mostly celebrated by the mainstream and casual boxing fans for his epic battles against Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. But over the course of his 16 year career “Smokin’ Joe” delivered his fair share of noteworthy beatdowns that now tend to be overlooked. Today here at Beats, Boxing & Mayhem, we take a look back at a handful of Joe Frazier’s most underrated in-ring battles.
5. vs. EDDIE MACHEN (NOVEMBER 21, 1966)
While the 34-year-old Machen was past prime, he was still dangerous. Earlier in ’66, he gave prospect Jerry Quarry his first loss. Just one year into his career, Frazier risked getting the same treatment — he had to overcome a possible confidence shaker when he was dropped twice in his previous bout against Oscar Bonavena. What ended up happening was a thorough beating that saw Frazier stay in Machen’s chest with debilitating hooks. Unlike his admirable showing against Sonny Liston, who he was able to frustrate with movement, Machen could not escape Frazier’s pressure. Machen was able to stun Frazier occasionally with counter shots, but could not push him back. A collection of left hooks in the 10th was enough to prompt the referee stoppage.
4. VS. GEORGE CHUVALO (JULY 19, 1967)
Need proof of the devastating power of a well-placed Joe Frazier left hook? Look no further than this slugfest with iron-chinned George Chuvalo. The fight was an inside war of attrition that ended when Frazier’s fist fractured the orbital bone under Chuvalo’s right eye. Chuvalo immediately pulls away in pain and capitulation. This is the only time in Chuvalo’s career that he ever wanted out of a fight.
3. VS. OSCAR BONAVENA II (DECEMBER 10, 1968)
Frazier had a point to prove with this one. Back in ’66, Bonanvena had dropped Joe twice and nearly KO’d him in their first meeting. It was one of the few fights were Frazier was the one in retreat. Making the third defense of his NYSAC heavyweight belt, Frazier showed the difference two years had made in his development by mauling Bonavena over 15 rounds. Frazier kept going forward the entire night and relied on his left hook to rearrange Bonanvea’s face into a discolored, swollen mask. Frazier would take a unanimous decision.
2. VS. BUSTER MATHIS (MARCH 4, 1968)
The rotund Buster Mathis was an amateur rival of Frazier’s who ended up playing an important role in Smokin’ Joe making it to the ’64 Olympics. Mathis had earned a spot on the Olympic team by defeating Frazier by decision. However, Mathis suffered a hand injury and pulled out, allowing Frazier to make the team and be the only boxer on that squad to win a gold medal.
Their professional fight saw Mathis jump out to an early lead by boxing Frazier and tying him up in close. Frazier never got reckless and made sure to concentrate his attack on Mathis’ soft body. Having never gone more than seven rounds, Mathis began to falter by the 10th. Frazier would end matters in the 11th with a murderous left hook out of an attempted clinch.
1. VS. QUARRY II (JUNE 17, 1974)
At the time of this fight, Joe Frazier’s career was in decline. Since winning the Fight of the Century in 1971, Frazier had gone 3-2: losing his title and getting knocked out by George Foreman in ’73, and dropping a grudge rematch to Muhammad Ali in his last fight. Shrugging off retirement talk, Frazier came back refocused for a rematch against Jerry Quarry, a fighter he had an epic Fight of Year battle with back in 1969. Eddie Futch got Joe ready by working on the right hand, which ended up cutting Quarry badly. Frazier showed a rare act of mercy by pulling back when Quarry seemed ready to quit, but Smokin’ Joe finished the job and prompted special referee Joe Louis to finally call it off after five rounds.