Smokin' Joe in Saratoga
Joe Frazier was in Saratoga the other day, signing autographs at the track and singing, sort of, at Siro’s afterwards. I tagged along, and you can see the photos I took by clicking HERE.
Frazier is not what he used to be – nobody is – but it was swell to see him anyway, even in his reduced condition. After multiple back operations following a car accident, he is frail and unsteady, and looking at him it’s hard to imagine he was ever heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
But plenty of people remember, enough to occupy him for more than an hour of autograph signing at the track, and these people included the very young, which was nice to see.
Not so nice was the realization that after all the glory he brought to boxing, especially with his three memorable fights with Muhammad Ali, he now has to take to the nightclub and casino circuit, much as Jake LaMotta did. He reportedly dissipated his boxing earnings through bad investments.
Well, Jake LaMotta is still going at age 89, so let’s hope Smokin’ Joe, at 67, still has something left in him.
I saw his first fight with Ali on what I believe was the only television in Laos at the time, in the lobby of the Lane Xang Hotel, with a small gathering of foreigners, and my own head felt the force when he hit Ali with that thundering left hook in the 15th round.
It was hard for me to believe that was him, hobbling onto the stage in the courtyard of Siro’s the other night, a third-rate nightclub act.
For further details and reflections, I refer you to my column in Tuesday’s paper, either online or in print.