When I heard the news that Joe Frazier was sick, "deathly ill" in fact, the first thing I thought of is Mark Kram's excellent book Ghosts of Manila. See, I'm much too young to have seen either Joe Frazier or Muhammed Ali as anything other than icons talked about in Eddie Murphy movies.â†µ
I was also on the tail end of the boxing era and never got pulled into that world the way earlier generations had. So, I gravitated towards baseball and football, learning just enough about boxing to know the big names and maybe seeing grainy fight footage every now and then on ESPN Classic.
I read Kram's book shortly after Bill Simmons first brought it up in 2005. He's already said things about this book that I couldn't hope to top, so I'll just offer my reaction to the book. More than anything else, I saw through that piece what boxing could be and had been. It made me appreciate history I had no other connection to.â†µ
Because of that book, I sympathized with Frazier. I liked Ali, but if I had to pick a side, I'd have gone with Smokin' Joe. After all, I'm a Houston fan, I automatically gravitate to the losers.â†µ
I felt bad for both Frazier and his family, both when I first heard the news Sunday and then when I heard he had died on Monday, but it also reminded me of an excellent book and my lone connection to a bygone era in sports. There's a reason I decided to write about sports for a living and some of it lies in that.â†µ