The two men who helped Joe Frazier define the greatest era of heavyweight boxing paid heartfelt tribute to him after his death yesterday. Frazier, the former undisputed world heavyweight champion, had been fighting liver cancer and his family confirmed he had passed away, at the age of 67.
The 1964 Olympic heavyweight champion is best remembered for his fights with fellow boxing legends Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. In what is the most storied era in the sport's history, it was Ali, Foreman and Frazier who were its pre-eminent stars.
"The world has lost a great champion," Ali said. "I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."
Foreman tweeted his reaction to the news, saying: "Good night Joe Frazier. I love you dear friend."
Joe Bugner, another star of the heavyweight division in the 1970s, lost to Frazier five months after being beaten by Ali in 1973. "Joe Frazier was relentless," Bugner told BBC Radio 5 Live. "Here was a man about 5ft 10, he weighed about a stone lighter than myself, but he was so courageous and ferocious, you had to literally hit him with a sledgehammer to put him away.
"In 1973 I was 23 years old. I became a man after that fight because I realised you can't go through a career like boxing without seeing and feeling the power of the greats. I had the privilege of fighting Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Those two to me were the greatest.
"Joe took everything away I thought I had and made me realise I needed more, if I was going to succeed. It hit me like a lightning bolt when I heard he died."
British former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis added: "He was legendary and he made a great contribution to boxing. I'm so sad for his family. Nobody likes to hear about great heroes passing on. It's very sad for boxing today."
Vitali Klitschko, WBC champion, said Frazier's legacy resonated down the generations: "He was a huge fighter, huge champion, huge personality." More stars of the sport took to Twitter, with Floyd Mayweather writing: "RIP Smokin Joe. My thoughts and prayers go out to to the Frazier family." Oscar De La Hoya wrote: "I will miss you my friend. R.I.P. Joe frazier."