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Playboy Interview: 'Smokin' Joe Frazier
  • November 07, 2011 : 20:11
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PLAYBOY: Do you enjoy your work?
FRAZIER: I love it. Anybody who participates in boxin' loves it. It's a sport in which things speak for themselves. You either have it or you don't have it.

PLAYBOY: Does it bother you that you have to hurt the other guy in the ring?
FRAZIER: Not at all. I don't want to hurt a man fatally, but it don't bother me at all to tap him on his chin. It's just like takin' an ax and cuttin' down a tree. Matter of fact, I get a thrill out of seein' a man fall from my punch. I don't really want to hurt him, though—just stop him for the 10 count.

PLAYBOY: What was the worst you ever busted anyone up?
FRAZIER: Oh, I've broken a couple jaws, cracked a few ribs and stuff, and I've caused people to have stitches around their eyes. But I think the Good Man will forgive me for that, because it's my livin', and these guys have the same chance that I do to be in the best of condition. It's like a self-defense thing—he comes at me, and I'm comin' at him.

PLAYBOY: Can you take punishment as well as you can dish it out?
FRAZIER: I don't really feel any punches, man. I may feel shook sometimes, but it's not pain. When you're hit with a punch, it's not an achin' kind of thing, unless a guy cracked your jaw—and I don't think you'd really feel that. Maybe if a guy busted up your ribs, you might feel that, if your lung was punctured or somethin'. But a puffed-up eye, or a sprained knuckle—I don't feel things like that. My mind is so much on winnin', I don't have the time to think about pain.

PLAYBOY: How about fear?
FRAZIER: The only thing I'm afraid of is the dark. I believe in ghosts. I don't know why, but I guess it was from bein' raised in the country. You hear the owls, you know--hoooooo! Momma was very religious—and very superstitious. She'd always say, when an owl hollers or a bull moans, it's sadness. In the country, you go out at night to the pumps and stuff to get water, and it's pitch dark out there, man; you can't even see your hands. And birds and bees and things fly in front of you—or a rabbit, a coon or a deer jumps out in front of you, but you can't see it. That's the only thing I ever really was afraid of, man—just plain old dark. I don't think too much of ridin' on planes, either. But that's it. Anything else I would tackle.

PLAYBOY: You look big enough to take care of yourself. How strong are you?
FRAZIER: I think I'm pretty strong. I can lift about 300 pounds, you know, just pick it up like that, from the floor. But I don't usually lift weights because it makes me muscle-bound, and I can't afford to be muscle-bound. I think I'm pretty strong other ways, too. Any time you can go to camp for seven weeks without sex, I think you're pretty strong.

PLAYBOY: Do you really go without sex while you're in training?
FRAZIER: Yeah. I don't know about all fighters, but like I say, I usually go without it for six or seven weeks.

PLAYBOY: What kind of effect does this have on you?
FRAZIER: Well, it's kind of hard to say, because I've always fought under those restrictions. So I don't know what it's like havin' sex and then fightin'. I know some guys probably have had sex while they were in trainin', but once I go to camp, that's it. I don't think sex does anything for your body. It takes too much energy out of you, and what you need in fightin' is energy. If you take the energy out of yourself, I don't see how you're gonna be a good fighter, or how you're gonna last long. You'll weaken your mind, you'll weaken your lungs and you'll weaken your heart, I imagine. Football, basketball—those sports are different.

PLAYBOY: As you get close to a fight, do you get moody?
FRAZIER: Once I go into camp, man, I get meaner. I don't talk much. I don't smile very much.

PLAYBOY: Are you angry at your opponent?
FRAZIER: Well, not really angry at him. But you get worked up because you know he's the guy who got you there. He's the guy who's makin' you lose all the things that you like to do. So he's the guy who's gotta go before the gun. He's the guy you want to take apart.

PLAYBOY: How do you know when you're ready for a fight?
FRAZIER: Well, in the last two weeks of trainin', when my weight is down, I start to really feel sharp. I may just tap a guy and he'll say, "Man, you're hittin' hard!" And I say, "I just tapped you." Because when I'm really gettin' into top shape, I can't feel my strength.

PLAYBOY: Do you work out a strategy for each opponent?
FRAZIER: Yeah. Once I find out what the man is like, I'll work on it. The thing is to have the type of guy you're gonna fight in your camp so he can make the road difficult for you. If the guy's a small man, I get a couple of small men. If he's big, I get some big men. But I don't care how slow or fast he is, because I always take a variety of fellas with me—one fast, one slow, one boxer and one puncher. So if my opponent should change his style, I'll be ready. One thing I don't do is watch films. The only films I watch are my own. I care about my mistakes, not the other man's. If he makes one, that's his problem.

PLAYBOY: Do you get nervous before fight time?
FRAZIER: Not really nervous. I get butterflies, just like any normal person. But when the first punch is thrown and I know where it's at, they're gone.

PLAYBOY: In some of your fights, you've seemed to have had a little trouble in the first round.
FRAZIER: Yeah. I've been shook. I was shook in the first round of the Manuel Ramos fight. I've been down, too—in the first Bonavena fight, though it wasn't in the first round. But I feel my man out, you see. I don't wanna jump on him cold, because it's pretty hard to control him when it's cold out there. It just takes a little while for me to get warmed up. So I'm out there watchin', and I try to be cautious, but sometimes I get tapped, I get nailed, I get shook. But I feel like I should see what he's doin', figure him out for one round—then, after that, go to work.

PLAYBOY: Once you do, you set a fast pace for your opponent to match.
FRAZIER: He can't match it. You see, the way I fight, it's not me beatin' the man: I make the man whip himself. Because I stay close to him. He can't get out the way. And all the time I'm stayin' close, I'm concentratin' on movin' on him. I may just touch him, you know—and he's tryin' to fight me off. So he's tirin' himself out. Each round I get out there and he's runnin' and he's throwin' punches—and all along, he's missin'. If the punches were really landin' that much, he'd slow me down. But see, he's not hurtin' me. I'm movin' around, slippin' punches and touchin' him, and he can't get out the way. Before he knows it—whew!—he's tired. And he can't pick up his second wind because I'm right back on him again.

PLAYBOY: In your title defense against Ron Stander, it looked as if you weren't fighting in your usual style.
FRAZIER: Right. I was movin' backwards, jabbin', settin' the man up with more punches. But I'm always movin'. I used to always be movin' in, but now I go in movin' around, and if I have to back out, I'll back out. But I can get right back in fast and attack my opponent again with no problem. I've learned a lot in the last three fights I've had. And each day I keep learnin' more. I'm movin' more, jabbin' more, usin' more combinations. I feel real confidence in myself now—more than when I fought Ellis, Quarry and Clay.

PLAYBOY: Did you have any doubts about yourself when you fought them?
FRAZIER: Well, when you're comin' along, you're not always sure you're in top shape. You're not sure you're throwin' your punches right. But now I'm sure. I know when I'm in top shape. I know what to do when I get out there. I know how to pace a man, how to set him up for a shot. I know my job real well.

PLAYBOY: A lot of people felt that Stander—and Terry Daniels—didn't belong in the same ring with you.
FRAZIER: Yeah, a lot of people criticized, because one of the guys wasn't in top contention. But then, who am I gonna fight? The W.B.A. says any champion has to defend against the number-one challenger, and if number one refuses the match, then it's number two. So I offered number one, number two, three, four, five, right on down to 10. And 10—Daniels—was the only guy who decided to step up and take a shot at the title. That's all. The rest of these guys just hide. They don't want to face me because they've been in with me before and they know what it's like. But they want to be less than a man. They say, "I'd rather fight somebody else." The plain fact is that they can't beat the man, because the man hit too hard. If I know I'm good, I'm gonna say I'm good. Just like Clay. I say Clay is good, but I'm the best. Ellis was good, but I'm the best. Quarry was good, but I'm the best. A lot of people say, "Well, so-and-so could have beat him, but...." What but? Ain't no but. You're good or you're bad. That's all.

PLAYBOY: Who was your toughest opponent?
FRAZIER: They were all tough. But I would say that Clay had to be the toughest. I had to go the distance—and I've only done that four times in 29 fights.

PLAYBOY: Like Ali, have you ever predicted the outcome of a fight?
FRAZIER: No. I've never been the type to do that. All I can say is that it's gonna be a good fight as long as it lasts. And if it goes 15, I'll be right there smokin'. I don't believe in predictin' I'm gonna knock a man out, because if you tell me you're gonna push me out that window at 12 o'clock tonight, I'm gonna sit there and watch you along about 11:59. If a man says he's gonna knock you out in the first round, or second round, you'll be lookin' for it. So I wonder, you know, what really goes on with all these predictions of Clay's.

PLAYBOY: Maybe they were just bad matches, and it was easy for Ali to take them out whenever he wanted to.
FRAZIER: I don't know. Fightin', for me, has always been right-down straight. Somebody made a statement the other day that Clay threw the fight with me. If he did, I hope he does it a little easier next time, because it was awful hard, I'm tellin' ya. Everybody says fights get thrown. I hope if they do, they let me know next time, so I wouldn't have to work as hard as I have been.

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