Smokin' Joe willing to end fiery feud with Ali

Boxing
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The Independent Online
Joe Frazier, in a bid to end decades of feuding between the two former heavyweight champions, has offered an olive branch to Muhammad Ali.

"It's about time to bring it to an end. I don't feel that I'm too big I can't say I'm sorry," Frazier said on Tuesday of the bickering that has continued between the pair since the last of their three epic bouts, the "Thriller in Manila" on 1 October 1975.

"I'm willing to say I'm sorry if I said anything to hurt you. We got to do it, before we all close our eyes, because I want to see him in heaven," the 52-year-old Frazier said of Ali, 54, who is a victim of Parkinson's syndrome.

Frazier's conciliatory words clash with the remarks he made in his recent autobiography. In the book Smokin' Joe, he wrote of Ali: "Truth is, I'd like to rumble with that sucker again - beat him up piece by piece and mail him back to Jesus."

In a recent article in the weekly magazine Sports Illustrated, he said of watching Ali light the Olympic flame: "If I had the chance, I would have pushed him in." Frazier said his harsh words have always been only in retaliation to Ali's remarks, which included calling him an "Uncle Tom" before their first fight in 1971 and "a gorilla" before the last. "What I was doing was only fighting back," he said. "That's the whole story, I was fighting back. Just like when the bell rings. A man calls you all kinds of names, what are you suppose to do, stand up and take it on the chin? No. I had to fight back."

Now he is willing to make up, if Ali says he is sorry first. "It's 25 years later, I'm willing to do that. But he has never come up and said, `I'm sorry Joe.' He said `I love Joe,' but he wouldn't say he was sorry. I would say it is time to mend our relationship and say I'm sorry and let's go on with our life," Frazier said.

Frazier made his comments at a news conference where he was joined by a dozen other athletes and sports personalities, including John McEnroe, for induction into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame.

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