Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who inspired Howard Cosell's legendary call, "Down goes Frazier!" in dethroning Joe Frazier as world heavyweight champion, has just distributed a statement on Monday night's death of Smokin' Joe.
"The term 'one and only' has been widely used to introduce many a celebrity, athlete and politician. Generally they've appeared in print, TV or movies.
"With most of these folks, 'one and only' is the last definition they deserve. [Because when] you see them at home, at work, on the TV, campaigning, visiting the poor -- [and then] in the presence of the rich and famous -- you might see a different person.
"One hello for the rich, a goodbye for the poor.
"Even a special handshake for the haves and the have nots.
"But this is not the case with Smoking Joe Frazier.
"Truly the one and only.
"If you were his friend, you got no more than the stranger. "Jam Bugger," the highest compliment and form of praise from Smoking Joe.
"Joe Frazier, for me, was the first champion I followed and studied. I wanted to fight him one day. I looked for weakness: Anyone who treated big shots big and the little person small was a plastic person. This kind of person would melt when the going got rough.
"With Joe, first time we met, I extended my hand for a handshake. He held back his hand and said, 'George, meet my wife.' After I greeted his Mrs., he then said, 'Hello' and 'Nice to meet you, George,'
with a firm handshake. Nothing weak in his game. Everyone was the same.
"Joe Frazier had journeyed from the Southern part of the U.S., worked hard to provide for his wife and children, making sure they'd [find] a better life than the one he found so hard. They would get a good education and a chance to take part in the American dream -- which meant no bowing down to any man, woman or child.
"Church and service to almighty God would be first in the family's life. Preaching to your kids is one thing, but example was another. Even his fighting style was his way of life. When the bell rings, he
would not back up from King Kong!
"I know, I knocked Joe down six times. When our fight was over, Joe was on his feet looking for me.
When the world changed, Joe Frazier [didn't distinguish between people]. If you were a man, you got a handshake, all women would get a personal "yes, ma'am." It didn't matter the color of your skin; if you wanted to be friends, you could. ... Joe was willing to slam down anywhere, then a handshake after.
"The new world brought new names such as ghetto, soul brother, Tom. Joe has been called them all. But just like the old Southern term "boy," Joe did not box around it and has not [side-stepped] any, but met them head-on with words like "boogie" and a song and dance.
"Yes, when his fellow man had mean [or] hurtful names for him, Joe got his band together and toured the world singing and dancing the Joe Frazier story. The world knows Joe Frazier, [he] did it his way.
"Talk about Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali. Even me (George Foreman), but the fact is: There is only one common, ordinary, everyday Joe.
"And he is 'The One and Only Joe Frazier.' "
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: In this file photo taken Jan. 22, 1972, defending WBA champion Joe Frazier, left, and challenger George Foreman have a close look at each other as they meet during the weigh-in moments before their world heavyweight boxing title bout at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Credit: Associated Press