March 8, 1971. Madison Square Garden.

Smokin’ Joe is dead. Cold black skin. But once his nostrils flared in the prime of life. Two coal black eyes darting. Green trunks glimmered under exhausting ring lights. That left hook. That left hook the graybeard historian of pugilism says removing unlit cigar from lip. That left hook was a gift from the gods. Poetry in motion. A modern art masterpiece. Picasso in gloves. That left hook. Effortless. Shakespearean in its immensity because the floor was always littered with bodies when Smokin’ Joe was through. Watch the sweat on the brow of Frazier. He bobs in that characteristic style. Almost looks nervous. Yet his blood is pure as ice. Bobbing. Take a punch. Counter. Bobbing. A straight right. Ducking. Then. Then. The delivery of that hook. That marvelous left hook. It would start from the floor. Born in his short muscular legs. His torso winding. Tension and bullet fast delivery. That left hook like a furious brown piston firing. The gods are smiling as the flashbulbs pop. The gods are smiling as the canvas quakes and the fans erupt. A volcano of cheers. The gods are smiling. The gods are well pleased with their native son. Ask Ali. The Greatest? Not that night.

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