Saying he couldn’t live a life hating a man forever, Joe Frazier said he would forgive archenemy Muhammad Ali for all the invectives and insults the world heavyweight has been hurling at him for five years.
Speaking with this writer inside his suite on the eve of his October 1, 1975 showdown with Ali , “Smokin” Joe said: “There’s a lot of animosity at this particular time. But I’m a guy who couldn’t go hating a man for the rest of my life.”
“As long as we have nothing going on, he can make a lot of bad statements about me, sure. But I’m a good man. I don’t think good man can walk around with a lot of hate in his heart. When a guy says things that are wrong to me, I don’t think I can’t forgive him,” Frazier said relating a sad story about what Ali did to him one afternoon in the course of his training for the last chapter of their trilogy called “Thrilla in Manila.”
He pleaded his press liaison officer though not to publish what he was saying because “it’s not necessary.”
The former champion turned challenger was relaxed and composed throughout the 40-minute conversation.
On the psy-war between Ali’s camp and his, Frazier said: “It doesn’t bother me anymore. I think my man is afraid of me. He’s been watching me train for the last two or three days and he has people moving within my training camp ever since we were in Philadelphia. He’s just not quite sure of himself.”
“He’d seen what I’m doin’ in the gym and I think he’s upset about things are goin’ on,” he related.
About Ali calling him a “gorilla”, Frazier quipped: “All men are supposed to come from the same ancestors. And if I am a gorilla, then probably there was some foul play somewhere down the line.”
“Another thing that bothers my man is that he knows there’s another man out there in his standards, probably higher than his. So he couldn’t sleep at night in his room. Everywhere he goes, he hears ‘Joe Frazier, “Smokin” Joe Frazier can beat you. He’s a great champ, he’s a great man,” he said.
“That’s why he sneaks in on me. He goes to my gym, to my hotel and do things a decent man shouldn’t do,” Frazier averred.
Asked about his preparations that ended two days earlier with the man he beat once and to whom he once lost, he said he’s ready and he and trainer Eddie Futch aren’t taking any chances.
“Clay is sharp. He can dance, box and still do everything he used to do. This is the reason why I’m getting ready,’ he assured.
He added he isn’t changing anything in his fighting style although he has been working on new techniques. “My style worked in 1971, it worked for me in 1974 and it will, work for me again this time with all the other things I’ve been working on.”