The best and brightest in the fight game past and present were touched by the death of Joe Frazier. Bernard Hopkins, himself a Philadelphia fixture, weighed in: “My reaction was I expected it to come, but the denial of it coming is something that people that know Joe and have been around him tried to block out. It was not shocking, because I knew he had been sick for a while, but now it is real and he is really not here with us anymore.
“Ali and Joe Frazier's rivalry is the king of all rivalries. You cannot mention Ali's name without Frazier, and you cannot mention Frazier without Ali. Their three fights were the three most exciting fights of the century. Joe is a person who will never be imitated or emulated. His legacy in boxing will never be duplicated, especially during his era. There will be only one Smokin' Joe Frazier.
“To be a fighter with a ring name such as Smokin', you're taking a big risk because you must be smokin' with that famous left hook, and he was. His legacy in the city of Philadelphia is up there with the greats, maybe even surpassing the 76ers' Dr. J (Julius Erving).
“He had great discipline and a strong will to win. Joe Frazier is an icon, and he will always be remembered that way. My condolences to the entire Frazier family. It's a very sad day in Philadelphia and all over the world.”
Promoter for the ages Don King, who promoted the Thrilla in Manilla, also passed on a statement:
“Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the embodiment of what a great heavyweight champion and person should be. He was a great gladiator. When Smokin’ Joe came to the ring, you knew you had someone who was coming to fight. I was proud to have known and promoted him, and I was honored to call him a friend.
“The courage Smokin' Joe showed in “The Thrilla in Manila”—answering every Ali onslaught with an equally withering response—will remain in the hearts and minds of boxing fans around the globe forever. It was one of the most dramatic fights in history. Although the warrior inside Smokin' Joe wanted to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, his chief second and friend Eddie Futch acted as more than a corner man to step in and refuse to let him continue, so he could live to fight another day and smoke 'em some more.
“One cannot underestimate the contribution Smokin' Joe and Ali made to progress and change by creating the space, through their talent, for black men to be seen, visible and relevant. The Thrilla in Manila helped make America better.
“Not only was he a great fighter but also a great man. He lived as he fought with courage and commitment at a time when African Americans in all spheres of life were engaged in a struggle for emancipation and respect. Smokin' Joe brought honor, dignity and pride for his people, the AMERICAN people, and brought the nation together as only sports can do.”