Beaufort and the boxing world lost a legend when Smokin’ Joe Frazier died from liver cancer at age 67 on Monday, November 7.
Smokin’ Joe Frazier was born Joseph William Frazier in Beaufort, South Carolina, on January 12, 1944. He is considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all times. Frazier left Beaufort at the age of 16 and moved first to New York and then Philadelphia, escaping the poverty and segregation of the South to pursue his dream to box. He won the Gold Medal in the heavy-weight division at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He turned pro and went on to hold the heavyweight title from 1970 to 1973, defeating Muhammad Ali in the “Fight of the Century” in 1971.
After retiring, he opened Joe Frazier’s Gym in one of Philadelphia’s troubled neighborhoods to train urban youth. Governor Mark Sanford awarded Frazier the state’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, on September 27, 2010. Frazier would visit Beaufort several times a year and family members still live in Laurel Bay, some on the same 10 acres where he grew up.