PHILADELPHIA, PA — 4000 people attended Enon Tabernacle Baptist church earlier today to pay tribute to the life of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who died at 67 last week from liver cancer.
Muhammad Ali, whose rivalry with Frazier endured well after their three celebrated ring battles of the 70s, attended the funeral and gave his greatest foe a standing ovation after Reverend Jesse Jackson’s eulogy.
“Tell them Rocky was not a champion. Joe Frazier was,” said Jackson, chiding Philadelphia for their celebration of the ficitional movie character whose statue stands prominently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Tell them Rocky is fictitious, Joe was reality. Rocky’s fists are frozen in stone. Joe’s fists are smokin’. Rocky never faced Ali or Holmes or Foreman. Rocky never tasted his own blood. Champions are made in the ring not in the movies. There deserves to be a statue of Joe Frazier in downtown Philadelphia.”
Other contemporaries of Frazier’s like Larry Holmes and Don King were present. Mike Tyson sent condolenses via an emotional video statement, as did actor Mickey Rourke.
Joe Frazier won the heavyweight championship with a fifth round knockout of Jimmy Ellis in 1970. His most celebrated defense would come a year later, when he punctuated a thrilling performance against Muhammad Ali with a 15th round knockdown to score a unanimous decision in the “Fight of the Century.”