Foreman: "Ali and Frazier didn't hate each other"

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
1:57
PM ET
Joe Frazier tried again against George Foreman on June 15, 1976, in Long Island. He sensed he was in the backstretch of his pro career, and tried to tweak a few things to restore the smoothness of his ride. In the re-do, Frazier didn't get demolished as rapidly, losing in a TKO5 at the Nassau Coliseum. But the experience cemented his sneaking suspicion, that it was time to exit the stage. "It's time for me to put it on the wall and go boogie, boogie, boogie," he said in Sports Illustrated. "The whole doggone game was a highlight, a lot of fun, and if I had the chance to do it again, it still would be a lot of fun." Foreman has fond memories of that bout.

"Frazier was all defensive," he said. "But what surprised me more was before the match at the weigh-in he had not a bit of hair. It threw me off a little bit. I thought he was crazy."

Frazier danced more than he had before, figuring maybe Foreman would chase him and punch himself out. "I had fallen for the Rope a Dope against Ali (on Oct. 30, 1974). Joe thought it would work again."

Foreman didn't fall for the Frazier strategy but he did fall for Long Island.

"It was like "Leave It To Beaver" land. I fell in love with Long Island. The fans at the Coliseum were pro Joe, Foreman recalls, but did cheer Foreman after he did his thing.

After the match, Foreman talked with Frazier's family, and was moved by how tight they were. "It was his number one asset, the dearness of his family, his sister and brother. Every year after I got closer with him, and stayed in touch." Foreman said Frazier was more upset he lost to Ali in Africa than he was.

Foreman also sheds some light on Frazier's apparent bitterness towards Ali. "They didn't hate each other," he said. "It was like the bad brother picking on the tender-hearted brother." Foreman said he comes from a family with seven kids, and has ten himself. He sees Ali and Frazier like siblings who just can't help but spar. They squabble but the love is still there. "Ali loved Joe," Foreman said. "Frazier was a source of life for Ali."

But what about Frazier's occasional outbursts at Ali over the years, when he'd mock his Parkinson's as payback from God?

"He was just saying what people wanted to hear," Foreman said. "When you're about ten years out of the ring, you like to read about yourself, you're in the paper."
Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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