Boxing legend Joe Frazier, perhaps most famous for his 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” fight with Muhammad Ali, was diagnosed with liver cancer about a month ago and is now gravely ill with the disease.

His manager Leslie Wolff said the 67-year-old Frazier is currently in a Philadelphia hospice and called him a “true gentleman,” adding, “Along with… Ali, (he is) one of the two most recognizable athletes in the world.”

Dubbed “Smokin’ Joe,” Frazier’s career included bouts with George Foreman, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner and Jimmy Ellis, but his three much-hyped fights against Ali helped seal his legend.

He handed Ali his first professional defeat in 1971′s “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden before the two met again in the classic “Thrilla in Manila” just outside the Philippine capital four years later — a match Frazier lost after 14 rounds, but which Ali later said was “the closest I’ve come to death.”

“The news about Joe is hard to believe and even harder to accept,” Ali, 69, said in a statement to CBS. “Joe is a fighter and a champion and I am praying he is fighting now… [He] has a lot of friends pulling for him, and I’m one of them.”


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