*Muhammad Ali was among the nearly 4,000 people who packed the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia for a two-hour “joyful celebration” of Joe Frazier’s life. The boxer died last week of liver cancer; he was 67.
Frazier’s championship belt and a pair of gloves were draped over his casket.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson asked mourners to rise, put their hands together and for one last time “show your love” for the former heavyweight champion.
Muhammad Ali – wearing a dark suit and sunglasses, frail and trembling – stood up and clapped for “Smokin’ Joe,” the fighter who handed Ali his first loss, reports the AP.
His body ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, Ali was accompanied by members of his family and wife, Lonnie, who rubbed his back while he was seated and held his hands as he entered and left the church.
Jackson delivered a stirring eulogy, describing Frazier as someone who “came from segregation, degradation and disgrace to amazing grace.”
“Tell them Rocky was not a champion. Joe Frazier was,” he said, referring to the hometown character from the boxing movie, Rocky, and whose statue stands at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Tell them Rocky is fictitious, Joe was reality. Rocky’s fists are frozen in stone. Joe’s fists are smokin’. Rocky never faced Ali or Holmes or Foreman. Rocky never tasted his own blood. Champions are made in the ring not in the movies. There deserves to be a statue of Joe Frazier in downtown Philadelphia.”
Also attending the service was former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and promoter Don King.
“We made history together,” said King, who promoted Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman, who was knocked out in the eighth round. “We tried to make America better.”
King, wearing an U.S. flag scarf and clutching a mini-flag, walked over to shake Ali’s hand before the funeral; Holmes greeted “The Greatest” when the service ended — with a 10-bell salute, boxing’s traditional 10-count farewell to its own.
Mike Tyson, a catch in his voice, sent a videotaped message of condolence as did real estate magnate Donald Trump and actor Mickey Rourke.
Frazier beat Ali, knocking him down and taking a decision in the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden in 1971. He would go on to lose two more fights to Ali, including the Thrilla in Manila.
Frazier was embittered for years by Ali’s taunts and name-calling, though he recently said he had forgiven him.
Their epic trilogy was recalled not only by speakers at the service but those who sent letters to be read at the ceremony. Rourke got the biggest laugh when he joked about Ali getting knocked down by Frazier – with Ali’s friends and family laughing the loudest.