July 17th, 2013 By Pedro Fernandez
San Francisco, CA- Having won the biggest professional boxing match in history by beating Muhammad Ali in 1971, then heavyweight champion Joe Frazier was the man who, like Kenny Norton, felt he never got the due he deserved. Today in segment two of the series, “Pedro & Boxing Greats” and will focus on an evening I spent with Joe Frazier in Atlanta, GA in 1998.
WIREHAIRED WONDER DON KING IN CHARGE
Working for KingVision TV, the Don King network that had varying audiences on PPV and Cable, King was throwing the Evander Holyfield-Vaughn Bean heavyweight title fight. With pre-fight and ringside interviews with King, Holyfield, Bean, as well as ex-pro wrestling superstar Bill Goldberg, ’twas a glitch free production from the TV team perspective.
JOE & BUTCH WERE “THIRSTY” IN DRESSING ROOM
But prior to, during, and after the Holyfield 12-round win over Bean, Joe Frazier and promoter Butch Lewis had been quenching their thirsts with beverages that were anything but soft. In the dressing room pre-fight to get a quote or two on camera for the live feed. Upon my entrance, there was Vaughn Bean, fat, lazy, calling him unmotivated would be a compliment.
VAUGHN BEAN “HEAVYWEIGHT CHALLENGER” NOT!
With a previous IBF title scrap ending in a 12 round loss vs. Michael Moorer in 1997, there was nothing “Shake N’ Bake” Bean did before or after in a boxing ring that made him worthy of a top-ten world ranking, let alone two title fights. In between the 28-1 Moorer and the 35-3 Holyfield, Vaughn Bean’s four opponents had a record of 36-42-1. Obviously, Bean’s positioning was all about Butch Lewis being “connected” with IBF officials who would in time go to prison for cirruption. .
THE VAUGHN BEAN DRESSING ROOM
In the dressing room, Bean was wearing some Muslim headgear with sweat beads running down his forehead. With Joe being the trainer, I went to him with the thought of putting the former heavyweight champion on TV as this would have been far more captivating than the personality-less Bean. But Joe was not acting rational, neither was Butch Lewis for that matter.
PEOPLE PRODUCING TV NEED UNDERSTAND SITUATION
When I informed the production truck that neither Joe or Butch were “interview-able,” they fought me until I was explicit in describing the scene. When Joe and Butch led Bean to the ring, I remember Frazier chomping on a wad of gum as if it would cover up the fact he had been consuming alcoholic beverages with Lewis.
NO HIDING THE TRUTH HERE
Obviously under the influence of alcohol, Frazier who was said to have had a few drinks the day he pulled the gas powered lawnmower over his foot and chopped off a couple of toes, at first it was sort of comical to watch as Joe and Butch were both just having a good time. From happy and somewhat effervesent, the mood in the Bean corner soon turned ugly as Bean wasn’t able to be competitive with Holyfield.
WHITE REFEREE VICTIM OF RACIAL TAUNTS
Somewhere around round four or five, Lewis begins hurling racial epithets at referee Brian Garry, a white Floridian who is about as straight as they come. It started out with minor insults, but by round nine, Lewis and Frazier were hurling racial insults that should have had them thrown out of the corner, if not the arena by Garry. But showing incredible restraint and backbone, Brian Garry simply showed he was above the crassness of Joe Frazier and Butch Lewis.
JOE & BUTCH WOULD NOT LET UP!
After the fight, Frazier and Lewis, especially Lewis, were still throwing jabs at referee Garry. While interviewing Frazier pre-fight, the signs were still there. The aroma of an alcoholic beverage on his breath, blood shot eyes, acting somewhat erradic, he was in my opinion drunk! Joe Frazier, the man who had chided Muhammad Ali for tagging him as an “Uncle Tom,” was calling a white referee names so vile that it painted for me a picture of Joe Frazier as an unhappy man.
JOE FRAZIER WAS OWN WORST ENEMY!
Be it his money or lack there of vs. Ali, the legacy of Frazier compared to Ali, Joe Frazier died a bitter man in 2012. Too bad,, but like his trainer Eddie Futch told me some 20 years ago, “Joe will never get over Ali. The hatred is so deep within him that it affects his everyday life.” Although his being the B side of the Ali-Frazier record may have been uncomfortable at times, Joe Frazier, with his charging fans for autographs, calling Muhammad Ali “retarded” and worse, the racist rants against a white referee, Joe Frazier didn’t have to be an asshole, but he was!
DID YOU SEE PART 1 ON ALI & KEN NORTON?
Here is the link for our first installment, my personal time with Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and George Foreman. Click to read Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton: An Untold Story