Q: They say, "May you live in interesting times." Were you aware that your audience included dictators and hippies, Sinatra and Norman Mailer?
A: It was all about the ring. That's where you got your brains shook and the money took. Everything outside was confused, upside-down and whatnot, and you media just made it more so. Nothing personal, brother. In the ring it was a good, clean fight. Very personal.
Q: You weren't a Philly party animal
A: A little Courvoisier. I fought like I had fun. Maybe Ali had more fun? I thought I was Evel Knievel for a while there too. Busted up a couple legs, arms, my face. Motorcycle ain't no more dangerous than a car, though.
Q: How do you handle the intensity of boxingyour heart pounding, all that adrenalineand still keep a cool head?
A: Ahhh. That's the training. Learn how to handle that emotion. I was never, ever once angry in the ring. I didn't get mad when George beat me up. I didn't get mad when Ali was clowning on me.
Q: Did you have second thoughts about your kids' becoming boxerslike your son Marvis, who fought Holmes and Tyson, and your daughter, who fought Ali's daughter?
A: Their decision. Do what you gotta do. I just told 'em: Ain't nothing pleasant about it. Just keep your pants upand you, keep your panties up.
Q: Where would you be right now if Ali hadn't been stripped of his title in 1967?
A: Joe Frazier's life didn't start with Ali. I was a Golden Gloves champ. Gold medal in Tokyo '64. Heavyweight champion of the world long before I fought Ali in the Garden. And I went down to D.C. to help Ali get his license back, man. President Nixon invited me up for tea: "Joe, if I do that, can you take him?" I said, "You dust him off, I'll beat him up." Nixon kept his word. So did I.
Q: So why did he come down to your gym and challenge you to fight in a park?
A: He's just a noisemaker, an empty wagon goin' down a road: Bumpity-bumpity-bump. Joe got my title. Joe's a Tom. Joe the white man's fighter. He's a pretty boy from Louisville. Light-bright and damn near white. I'm a sharecropper's son from Beaufort, South Carolina. Bumpity-bump.
Q: When did you start working in the fields?
A: Three years old? Right by my daddy's side, picking cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages, watermelons. Wasn't really a field, more a gardenwe didn't have but 5, 10 acres, 11 kids.
Q: And how old were you when you left?
A: Fifteen? New York City. I was "helping cars into the junkyard." Think they call it grand theft auto now? Then off to Philly when it was clear maybe it wasn't working out so well.