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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Spotlight : BOXING

Smokin' Joe Still Fuming

A look at the day that was and at what lies ahead at the Summer Games

July 31, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI

ATLANTA — Joe Frazier's anger toward Muhammad Ali, even after two decades, has never cooled, and watching his old adversary light the Olympic torch to open the Atlanta Games apparently inflamed the feelings even more.

Frazier, appearing at the boxing venue Tuesday in support of American lightweight Terrance Cauthen, who trains at Frazier's gym in Philadelphia, refused to say Ali's name--he call's him "the Butterfly"--but did not refuse to criticize the choice of Ali to light the flame.

Ali taunted Frazier frequently and harshly when both were in their primes, often naming Frazier as the "white man's" choice to win their fights.

"I know so many people who did so much for boxing and the U.S.A.--the Butterfly didn't do that much," Frazier said, with his son, Marvis, and Cauthen sitting at his side after Cauthen won his quarterfinal match to move into the medal rounds.

"You look at it, he was a draft dodger, he didn't like his white brothers. All the things he said really were against America."

Frazier, whose speech is slightly slurred by his years in boxing, said that the choice of Ali, with his failing health due to Parkinson's Syndrome, was meant to make people believe that boxing should be banned.

"I remember everybody said the Butterfly beat me up in the head, and here I am, well and strong and able," Frazier said.

Does Frazier, who won a gold medal in 1964--four years after Ali won one--think he would have been a better choice to light the flame?

"Why not? I'll do anything anybody asks me to. I'm not a noisemaker. Hell, I would've run all the way up the ramp to light it," Frazier said.

"I'll just say it's a good thing he was able to light it and didn't fall in. I didn't want that to happen."

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