Joe Frazier: Deep As Cotton Fields and the Blues
1 year ago
Frazier's left hook swung from a place few could see coming
The left hook is malice made into a thing of beauty. Boxing lore will tell you that the left hook has dashed more aspirations, left more men arrayed on the canvas like crime scene photographs than any other punch in the inventory. Throw it as the punctuation on a jab-cross-hook combination and it is surreptitious, it crashes in from just outside the peripheral vision. The gifted can double up on it, take the hook downstairs to tenderize the rib cage and then bring it up to the temple where it makes men fall out like they’ve been touched by the Holy Ghost. A few can throw it at the beginning of a sequence and it’s like opening a conversation by telling a man you slept with his wife but only after you slapped his grandmother. Master it and you are a fighter; without it, you’re just someone throwing punches.
Joe Frazier was a fighter. There are few in the history who expressed the left hook as fluently as he and fewer still who deployed it with the devastating consequences he did. There was little poetry in Frazier’s approach to the craft; his style was a catalogue of tics, glove-to-forehead, shoulder-hunch-and-duck jerks, all as redundant as a blues verse. He fought like a car with a bad transmission: moving in one direction only. But inside that awkward motion was a mastery of technique that few could appreciate unless they’d tried actually defending against it. The novice believes that the hook is thrown from the shoulder, but Frazier knew its origins lie way further south -- that it begins with a pivot in the left foot, the ill intent moving north, picking up torque in the hip and then finally expressing itself through the shoulder, the arm, the fist. The truth is that Frazier more than any boxer other than Floyd Patterson laid down the principles that the young Mike Tyson mined and remixed.
When Frazier and Muhammad Ali met for their first bout in 1971, nearly four years after Ali had been stripped of the title, the country boy shocked the former champion, absorbing his best and bobbing his way in to deliver a bulk shipment of left hands. In the 14th round one of those hooks found its mark and Ali found himself on the canvas. When doubters shrugged off Ali’s loss as the product of too much time away from the ring they overlooked the fact that he had always been vulnerable to left hands.