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Playboy Interview: 'Smokin' Joe Frazier
  • November 07, 2011 : 20:11
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PLAYBOY: Some states recognized you as champion after you beat Buster Mathis—and others after you beat Jimmy Ellis. And a lot of people didn't recognize you as champ until after the Ali fight. When did you consider yourself champion?
FRAZIER: When I whipped Mathis. I know there's always been some doubt in the public mind about who's the champ. But when I whipped Mathis in '68, I felt like I was the champ, because I didn't take anything from another man illegally. I didn't take my title from Clay, I took it from Mathis—legal. So I didn't have any cloud over my head. We've got laws we gotta live by. I didn't make the rules—though maybe I make some I live by—and when you break the rules, you gotta pay. I didn't have any malice in my heart against Clay. I felt like if he asked for a title shot, anything I could do to help him get it, I would. And I did. The whole time this man was stripped of his title, I never said one bad word about him. I kept him in the public eye, I went along with him in anything he wanted me to do. I made sure Clay got the title shot—and I whipped him fair and square.

PLAYBOY: Why do you insist on calling him Clay?
FRAZIER: You should have a right to call a man what you want to call him. He doesn't have to like it. He give me a name—he calls me a Tom. So if I gotta be a Tom, he can be Clay. But I would always call him Clay anyway, because I know it gets him mad. I like to make him mad, 'cause there's nothin' he can do about it. He can jump in my chest if he wants me.

PLAYBOY: When did he call you a Tom?
FRAZIER: Oh, he's always sayin' that. That's his routine. If you're not on his side, or in his organization, he brands you with a name: Tom. I don't really know what that is, anyway. I've heard of it, but I don't know what a person says or does, or how he handles himself, to be a Tom. Really. Because I'm just a regular guy. I treat everybody the same, and I don't live in the past, worryin' about things that happened 400 years ago. That's the way he lives.

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about Ali's Muslim religion?
FRAZIER: I don't believe in his religion; I don't believe in nothin' it says. I believe it's all one big front.

PLAYBOY: A front?
FRAZIER: Yeah, a front. That means usin' other men—and mostly what they use, as far as I'm concerned, is the black movement. It's nice, maybe, for a few guys who've had a little outside recognition; they have somethin' to say in the organization. But if Clay weren't a contender, if he hadn't been champion, he probably wouldn't believe so much in the organization—because he wouldn't have too much to say. I know guys really involved in it, and they don't.

PLAYBOY: Are the Muslims using him, or is he using them?
FRAZIER: I can't get into that part of it. I'm just talkin' about regular black brothers—small people in the street. I don't know whether the Muslims are usin' him or not. That's his ignorance anyway, if he can't see.

PLAYBOY: Are you religious yourself?
FRAZIER: Very religious. I'm a Baptist. I been goin' to church since I was a little fella. I still go—but I would admit I'm not as active in church as I should be, or as I'd like to be. But the Good Man knows why, and I'm hopin, that my pastor and my brothers and sisters in the church understand that.

PLAYBOY: As a religious person, how would you feel if you hurt someone seriously in the ring?
FRAZIER: I'd feel real bad—unless I meant to do it. A guy could rap off at the mouth so much you wouldn't care if you did put him on the hill to push up daisies. It's wrong, but that's just the way you feel sometimes about some guys. They get you and hold you and try to make you look like a bad guy, when you know you're not a bad guy, and you try to help everybody. So you feel like takin' 'em apart.

PLAYBOY: What do you say to people who claim, as Ali does, that you're the white man's champ?
FRAZIER: I represent the world, so I don't see how I can be only the white man's champ. Now, everybody's not gonna agree with what you stand for. But if I talk with a white kid and treat him like a human bein', do I have to be the white man's champ? I'll do the same thing if a black man comes up to me and talks. Or anybody who might come up to me and hold conversation, if they're intelligent and know what they're talkin' about. But you got people out there that just want to be seen. When they go up to somebody important, they say on the side, "Betcha I can go up there and call him a Tom, I can call him a bigmouth." Whatever. You know, they want to bet—and a lot of times people don't make it out of their bets. You know what I mean? But I never would hurt anyone, really. I just don't see where they get off with that "white man's champ" business. I represent the world. Fans write from overseas—England, you know, Germany, France—and say they'd love to see me over there because, after all, I'm their champ, too. I'm not just the champion of Philadelphia or the United States.

PLAYBOY: You may be the champ, but Ali probably has at least as many fans who—even after his loss to you—still think he's the greatest.
FRAZIER: It all depends what great means. I don't see anything so goddamned great that this clown has done. I ain't seen one great thing he's done—no greater than me. If they wanna talk about his mouth, yeah, he's great with his mouth. But in that ring, he ain't that great.

PLAYBOY: Was he ever?
FRAZIER: No. What did he do? I won at the Olympics just like he did. Matter of fact, I won in a higher class than he did. He was light heavyweight and I was heavyweight. So what's so great? You mean beatin' the draft—winnin' the case on the draft? He's payin' every day for it. Believin' in the Muslim rite, or whatever—is that the greatest? Tell me what this man has done for black people that I ain't done.

PLAYBOY: What have you done?
FRAZIER: I been movin', I been goin' to schools—I been givin' all of me. Any way I can. I go in the black neighborhood. I think just by bein' a person, the way I am, that's givin' to the black man. That's givin' the black man all he needs. Givin' money don't mean a thing; goin' around sayin' hello don't mean a thing. You preach 'bout how you're black—"Yeah, right on, brother"—what does that mean? Why, I'm five times as black as Clay; and that's not even lookin' at the skin. By bein' black and bein' a human bein', by bein' intelligent and handlin' myself well in public, that's the way I represent black people. Now if you're talkin' about goin' and makin' a lot of noise—you know, get on television and say "I'm a bad nigger. I know Whitey don't like me but I don't care"—I don't see where that represents your black people. You know what I mean? Or you say, "I'm a pretty nigger." Does that represent my people? No. You got a lot of pretty black men out here, you understand? Fine-lookin' black men. I consider myself one of them. But I don't have to get around and make a lot of noise and tell you how pretty I am. If you're nice and you look good, you'll shine, man. You don't have to be plugged in a wall by the mouth to shine.

PLAYBOY: Is it fair to say that there's a little bad blood between you and Ali?
FRAZIER: Yeah. He tries to be the biggest man in the world. If you want to go and talk to your people, you don't have to block up traffic. When I go downtown, I don't have to make any noise. As soon as I step out, people know it's me. "Hi, Joe, what's up?" "Hey, how ya doin'?" But I seen him go in the ghettos, make a lot of commotion and block up the streets so the police gotta come down and move the traffic. It's all right if it's for a good cause. But just to do it because, you know, "I am a Muslim," or "I'm the greatest," that's not right. And after he causes a traffic jam in the ghetto, he goes back to Sugar Hill, Cherry Hill, whatever hill he lives up on. Wherever he goes, he makes a lot of noise. He's just like a kid who don't know when to stop. You ever get a kid when you talk to him and play with him, he don't wanna stop, and you gotta whup his ass to make him behave? That's what this monkey here is like.

PLAYBOY: Were you sorry that you didn't knock him out in your title fight?
FRAZIER: No, because I wasn't thinkin' about knockin' him out. I was just gonna whup him. And I did. I whupped him for 15 rounds. I don't know what points I scored or he scored, but I didn't see him do nothin' from the time the bell rang except move around and clown. It was a tough fight, like I said, but I don't think he really has a punch. I don't think he ever did have a punch. He just wears guys out, you know, by movin', and when they get tired he taps them, and they're exhausted, so they fall, and stay down. But really, to take a guy out with one punch, I don't think he's got the shot. No way.

PLAYBOY: There were times in that fight when he just stood there and let you bang away. He claimed he was showing he could take whatever you had and still hang in. Do you think that's true?
FRAZIER: The truth is he couldn't move. His body was worn down. Everywhere he went, I was there. They talk about how fast he is, but he couldn't stay outa my way. I could've run past him and then come back and caught him goin' the other way if I'd wanted to. Everything I did, I was at ease, but he was strainin', because his thing is movin'. Mine is movin' in, and I know how to move in.

PLAYBOY: Does it bother you to hear him say he should have had the decision?
FRAZIER: No. It bothers me sometimes when I run into people out in the street who talk to him and believe in him—you know, the militant type who believe all that nonsense. But otherwise, if he goes around and makes a lot of noise, that don't bother me at all.

PLAYBOY: After the Ali fight, you went into a hospital for a while, and there were all kinds of rumors about what was wrong with you. What was wrong?
FRAZIER: Well, it was nothin' from the fight. You see the 15-pound medicine ball I was workin' out with today? They slam that into my sides and stomach to help me lose weight. Somehow, I took too many shots with the ball; I got an infection in the kidneys, and in trainin', my blood pressure went up and down. But I knew that with a couple days' rest, it would settle back down. It did; I passed the physical, and we thought that was it. But as soon as I'd start fightin' again, or runnin'—bloop! It would go back up. So that's why I went in the hospital after the hard 15-round fight. But this monkey didn't put me in no hospital. Did anybody ever stop to ask him why he was in the hospital?

PLAYBOY: Wasn't it to have his jaw X-rayed?
FRAZIER: For his jaw—but also, he couldn't walk. They had to put him in his pants. They had to pick him up and set him in his pants. His body was all bruised from body shots.

PLAYBOY: Did your blood-pressure problem bother you during the bout?
FRAZIER: No. I didn't feel a thing. But like the doctor said, when you're hot you can't feel nothin' like that. Your body is so hopped up that nothin' bothers you till you start comin' down again. Anyway, next time the public is gonna see a different me out there—a different me altogether. I'm healthy now. He's gonna be out there tryin' to do the thing to me, but I'm gonna have just a little bit more to turn on than I had the last time. Mindwise, I'm good; physicalwise, I'll be good; know-how, I'll be good. So there won't be nothin' to hold me back. I'll just crank my motor up and let it go.

PLAYBOY: Howard Cosell says that at the end of the last fight, you were in worse shape than Ali was.
FRAZIER: Well, Howard has a job to do. But I don't feel that he's been fair to me—or to the public. I don't think Howard cares too much for blacks, anyhow. But the thing he and Clay got is like a contract: You promote me and I'll promote you. Durin' the last Olympics, Howard talked about how this guy Bobick was comin' up, and Clay better watch out. Then Bobick lost his fight. Howard wasn't bein' fair to the public or myself. Clay wasn't the champ. I was—and I'd also been the Olympic heavyweight champ. George Foreman was an Olympic heavyweight champ, too. So I feel Howard should have talked a little more about that, and related to us when he talked about Clay—but they got their thing goin', so what the hell. Howard is just another fella. He didn't put no star in my crown, he don't put no bread in my pocket.

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