I watched the HBO Documentary on Ali-Frazier which was great! To me, the importance of this documentary was to show the other half of the story. Joe Frazier was one of the greatest fighters of all time and had the heart of a lion. If you watched the program, Ali came off as being unappreciative and cruel to Frazier especially if you take into the account how Joe went out of his way to assist Ali financially and get him reinstated in boxing during Muhammad's exile. You could easily conclude that Ali turned on Frazier and by calling him an "****" and a "Gorilla". Ali was insulting Frazier in the worst way as far as the black community was concerned. I say this as I am quoting a black commentator in the documentary on the effects of Ali's comments on Frazier.
Although I grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn (Mike Tyson's stomping grounds) I am white and I don't wish or have the right to speak for the black community. But as I boxing fan I have a right to my viewpoint.
Muhammad Ali was the greatest fighter I ever saw, particularly in his prime when he was known as Cassius Clay and had blinding speed. In a sport like boxing, it's one man against the other and you can't fight at your best if you say hey..I like this guy or I'm indebted to him. Shane Mosley may be one of the few exceptions to the rule, but most boxers competing against each other develop a hatred of the opponent prior to the fight in order to motivate themselves. Ali would psyche himself up by doing so and in most cases psyche out the opponent before the fight even started. Tyson was great at it until his inner demons got the better of him. I don't believe Ali meant the things he said about Frazier once the battle was over. But I also think Frazier had every right to be upset that Ali didn't communicate with him directly but instead chose to apologize for his comments to Frazier's son Marvis after the third and final war between the two in Manila.
I remember the first fight at Madison Square Garden which was a classic. Frazier won by unanimous decision but give Ali credit! After being knocked down by a vicious left hook by Joe in the 15th round, Ali amazingly got up and by many accounts won the rest of the round! All of the fights between them were highly competitive. In the second fight Ali had Frazier in deep trouble in the second round but the bell to end the round rang roughly 20 seconds earlier than it should have. That may have saved Frazier. Ali won that one by unanimous decision. The third and final fight in Manila was another classic that took its toll on both fighters. While Ali won via TKO the punishment he endured during that fight heavily contributed if not resulted in his debilitated condition today.
What it really boils down to is 2 of the greatest fighters of all time, one a far better trash talker and the other a blue collar worker giving all of themselves in three classic fights. Ali was the consummate boxer, who in his prime turned boxing into an art form - stick and jab, dance, shuffle, disappearing before the punch could land. Cassius Clay, as he was known in his prime before becoming a Muslim - wasn't about slugging it out. He was about hitting without getting hit back. In the history of boxing there was nobody faster in the heavyweight division as far as hand and leg speed and pure athleticism. Ali had the best left Jab of any heavyweight in the history of boxing. Joe Frazier, in his own right was one of the greatest come straight at you sluggers with non-stop power, movement and an unbelievable left hook - the only punch that Ali was ever susceptible to in his career - as Henry Cooper proved.
The only part of this program that disappointed me was the commmentary of Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. When he was in Ali's corner and as an NBC commentator I respected his insight and his concern for the boxer. Yet In this HBO special he came off as a pure egomaniac.
I would like to think the apology Frazier felt he deserved never happened because Ali could no longer express himself adequately as a result of the Parkinsonian symptoms affecting him. I refuse to believe Ali held any grudges. He had pejorative names for every opponent and then only praise when the fight was over.
Besides, in the sport of boxing what better compliment can you give to an opponent when Ali, while still in his full faculties said right after the Frazier fight in Manila that it was the closest thing to death he ever experienced?
As a fan, I say - thank you to Joe Frazier & Muhammad Ali for three of the greatest fights ever by two of the greatest champs of all time. I'm glad that this special finally gave Joe Frazier his due.