Sir Viv mourns Smokin Joe's death
Cricket legend Sir Vivian Richards talks about late Joe Frazier, whose Smokin' Joe Nickname he was honoured to share
The Muhammad Ali of cricket was a Joe Frazier fan. It was a bleak morning for Sir Vivian Richards yesterday as his hero Frazier (67) lost his battle with liver cancer. "It is a sad day. He was an inspiration when I was a young man. I admired his spirit," said 59-year-old Richards, who knew the heavyweight champ.
June 8, 1973: World heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier before
his fight with Joe Bugner in London. Pic/Getty Images
Richards got his Smokin' Joe nickname because of Frazier, who, according to Ali's biographers Don Atyeo and Felix Dennis, "christened himself Smokin' Joe after his habit of steaming from the corner at the bell until he was crouched head to chest before they pick him up."
Muhammad Ali of cricket: Sir Viv Richards. Pic/Getty Images
The West Indies team members started calling Richards Smokin' Joe after the batting great "stood up for Frazier at most times" during "arguments" while on tour. Richards said: "We (in the West Indies team) used to speak often about our favourite boxers. I always admired Ali. He was the greatest really, but I just loved the attitude of the smaller man, Frazier. He wasn't as physically tall as some of the boxers who were six feet, four or six feet, five. Joe was about five feet, 10 or 11. His tenacity stood out - he moved forward and never took a step back. He was like a raging bull."
Watched Joe train
The cricket legend's boxing passion attracted him to follow Frazier's career closely. "I had shown so much interest in boxing that I went to Philadelphia just to watch him train. I was in Jamaica when he fought George Foreman. He got knocked out in that fight. I have seen a fair bit of him," said Richards.
Frazier's appearance on Richards' This is Your Life show 27 Novembers ago, was more than just a kind gesture. "I remember him playing a huge part from Philadelphia. He came on the show through a recording beamed from Philadelphia while we were in London. He couldn't make it to London because his son Marvis was fighting. But he sent me his best wishes and said he was pleased that someone else was called Smokin' Joe," said Richards.