A gripping, all-access biography of Joe Frazier, whose rivalry with Muhammad Ali riveted boxing fans and whose legacy as a figure in American sports and society endures
History will remember the rivalry of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali as one for the ages, a trilogy of extraordinary fights that transcended the world of sports and crossed into a sociocultural drama that divided the country.
Joe Frazier was a much more complex figure than just his rivalry with Ali would suggest. In this riveting and nuanced portrayal, acclaimed sports writer Mark Kram, Jr. unlinks Frazier from Ali and for the first time gives a full-bodied accounting of Frazier’s life, a journey that began as the youngest of thirteen children packed in small farm house, encountering the bigotry and oppression of the Jim Crow South, and continued with his voyage north at age fifteen to develop as a fighter in Philadelphia.
Tracing Frazier’s life through his momentous bouts with the likes of Ali and George Foreman and the developing perception of him as the anti-Ali in the eyes of blue-collar America, Kram follows the boxer through his retirement in 1981, exploring his relationship with his son, the would-be heavyweight Marvis, and his fragmented home life as well as the uneasy place that Ali continued to occupy in his thoughts.
A propulsive and richly textured narrative that is also a powerful story about race and class in America, Smokin' Joe is unparalleled in its scope, depth, and access and promises to be the definitive biography of a towering American figure whose life was galvanized by conflict and whose mark has proven lasting.
About the Author
Mark Kram, Jr. won the 2013 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing for his first book, Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion. Articles by him have appeared in The Best American Sports Writing and will be included in the forthcoming anthology, The Great American Sports Page. The Society of Professional Journalists honored him with the 2011 Sigma Delta Chi Award for feature writing. Formerly a sports writer in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore, he is the son of the late Mark Kram, the acclaimed journalist for Sports Illustrated and author of Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. He has edited a collection of his father’s magazine pieces, Great Men Die Twice: The Selected Works of Mark Kram. He lives outside Philadelphia.
“A revelation, a powerhouse, a thing of beauty, and—OK, I’ll say it—a knockout. Joe Frazier is one of the most compelling figures ever to step in a boxing ring, and Mark Kram, Jr. has written a biography worthy in every way of the champ’s greatness.”
— Jonathan Eig, bestselling author of Ali: A Life
“Mark Kram, Jr. much, much more than splendidly gets to the strange anomaly that was Smokin’ Joe: you’d have thought the guy didn’t get no respect. Only he did. Lots...His life is a story worth reading.”
— Richard Ford
“Mark Kram, Jr.’s sympathetic and thoroughly researched Smokin’ Joe is a worthy introduction to an under-appreciated American athlete.”
— Joyce Carol Oates
“An exquisite biography that depicts Frazier as he really was: not just fearless and ferocious but soulful, compassionate, loyal, impulsive, capable of powerful hatred and even more powerful love. You can feel the gospel truth of Smokin’ Joe deep in your bones.”
— John Schulian, winner of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing
“Mark Kram Jr.’s landmark book about Joe Frazier...at last remedies a grave wrong, lifting the indomitable Frazier out of the crypt of creeping obscurity and into the exalted place he deserves in America’s annals...[A] sublime exploration.”
— Michael Leahy, aof the Casey Award-winning The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers
“Bookish fans of the sweet science will flock to this biography.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A comprehensive knockout of a biography...[A] beautiful book.”
— Wall Street Journal
"Kram...writes with the intensity that Frazier fought with...Unlike his subject, Kram knows when to take a step back and reflect, revealing a Frazier far removed from the enduring portrayal of him as 'an angry and unforgiving man so incapable of letting go of the hatred he harbored for Ali.'"
— The National Book Review