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“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier Remembered In South Florida

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Joe Frazier, the former Heavyweight Champion of the World poses for a portrait at his boxing gym on March 18, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Joe Frazier, the former Heavyweight Champion of the World poses for a portrait at his boxing gym on March 18, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Gary Nelson has been a member of the CBS4 News team since Septem...
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MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – At the famed 5th Street Gym on Miami Beach Tuesday Anthony Gales slugged away at a punching bag, a fight poster of “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier and Muhammad Ali hanging on a wall nearby.

Gales was not yet born when Frazier and Ali were fighting each other in the 1970’s, but he has seen every one of their fights on video and remembered Frazier today as someone he aspires to emulate.

“He was relentless,” Gales said.  “He had everything you need to be a fighter.  He was exciting to watch.”

Frazier died Monday from liver cancer, just weeks after being diagnosed with the disease.  He was 67.

In the glory days of Frazier and Ali, Frazier would occasionally visit the 5th Street Gym to chat with Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, and Dundee’s brother, Chris.

“I never gave him any boxing tips,” Angelo Dundee told CBS4 News on Tuesday.  “He was going up against my guys.  But we had good talks.”

Dundee remembered Frazier as the kind of fighter who would bring a ferocity to the bout, then hug his opponent afterwards with genuine affection.

“He was a good kid.  He’s been a good kid all his life,” Dundee said.  “I’m proud to say he was my friend.”

Dr. Ferdie Pacheco of Miami, Muhammad Ali’s personal physician, was present at every Frazier/Ali bout.  He occasionally treated Frazier, too, when the boxer was in Miami and also in New York.

“Joe Frazier was the epitome of heart and strength,” Pacheco told CBS4 News on Tuesday.

Pacheco particularly recalled the “Thrilla In Manilla,” Ali and Frazier’s final fight that was called in the 14th round over Frazier’s objections.

“I’ve seen everything.  That was the best fight I’ve ever seen,” Pacheco said.  “He came close to dying.  If Frazier came out in the 15th round, he dies.”

Promoter Don King, who lives in South Florida, helped promote some of Frazier’s fights.

“I would characterize Joe Frazier as the epitome of a great champion and a great human being,” King told CBS4 News, adding that Frazier and Ali helped break down racial barriers and joined in the struggle for equality.

“Joe Frazier helped those who were discriminated against,” King said.  “He was striking a blow for the underprivileged, downtrodden and denied.”

Pacheco said the Frazier/Ali period was unique in the sport, and can never be duplicated.

“It was the era of the very best fighter in the world, fighting the very best fighter in the world,” Pacheco said.

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