Joe Frazier was an Olympic gold medalist in 1964 and the world heavyweight boxing champion between 1970 and 1973. He is famous especially for his three brutal fights with fellow heavyweight Muhammad Ali. Born into a poor, rural family in South Carolina, Joe Frazier began boxing after he moved to Philadelphia when he was a teenager. Within four years he held three national Golden Glove titles and a gold medal from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Frazier was undefeated when he won the World Boxing Association's heavyweight title in 1970, but in the minds of boxing fans, Ali was the unofficial champion -- Ali's title had been revoked in 1967 after he was convicted of draft evasion. Once Ali was allowed to box again, the two fought for the world's title on 8 March 1971 in what was dubbed the Fight of the Century. "Smokin' Joe" Frazier won after 15 rounds, with a hard left hook that knocked Ali down and handed him his first professional loss. Frazier lost the championship in 1973 to George Foreman, and in 1974 lost a non-title rematch to Muhammad Ali. Frazier then got another shot at the world's heavyweight title in 1975, in another much-anticipated fight in the Philippines with Ali (who called it the "Thrilla in Manila"). Ali was the reigning champ, having taken the title from Foreman in 1974, and Frazier had worked his way back into contention. Ali publicly taunted Frazier to up the ante on the rivalry, and the two battled hard until Frazier's corner stopped the fight; Ali was declared the winner after 14 rounds. Frazier retired from boxing in 1976 (save for a one-bout comeback in 1981), with a career record of 32 wins, four losses and one draw. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in October of 2011 and died about a month later at the age of 67.
In his early days in Philadelphia, Joe Frazier worked at the Cross Brothers Meat Packing Company (1961-63), where he practiced boxing by punching cattle carcasses, just like in the Sylvester Stallone movie Rocky (1976).