Sparring with Smokin’ Joe: Joe Frazier’s Epic Battles and Rivalry with Ali

Rowman & Littlefield. Feb. 2021. 224p. ISBN 9781538136799. $24.95. SPORTS
Potential readers of this book may initially have a problem. The subtitle implies an emphasis on the fights between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, but they are only cursorily addressed, mainly near the end of the book. Lewis (journalism, York College, CUNY) had a secret weapon, though: extensive access to the Frazier family dating back to 1980. The author covers aspects of Joe Frazier’s (1944–2011) story, from his South Carolina roots, through his glory days and after, as he juggled a singing career with managing and training son Marvis, who turns out to be somewhat the star of the show, if not the ring, in Joe’s own scrap iron image. Toward the end of the book, the narrative follows Marvis as he returns to the ring and faces Mike Tyson. Lewis is not shy about his admiration for Smokin’ Joe, referring to him as the “The Greatest”—a nickname usually reserved for Ali. Although Ali isn’t present in every chapter, his shadow looms large, as he was always a serious threat to Joe.
VERDICT Fans of Ali might not be pleased, but Lewis portrays Frazier as a fighter for the ages in this admiring book.
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