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Martin Kane
November 16, 1970
Joe Frazier plans to beat Bob Foster next week, and then Muhammad Ali, and then retire to his life's goal: oblivion
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November 16, 1970

The World Champion Nobody Knows

Joe Frazier plans to beat Bob Foster next week, and then Muhammad Ali, and then retire to his life's goal: oblivion

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What Frazier does like is anything having to do with mechanics, especially the branch that moves vehicles. He took his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to camp with him and spent hours tooling it about the country roads, polishing its iridescent blue and brilliant chrome and just proudly showing it off to Vacation Valley visitors.

"I paid $2,500 for it," he said, "but I chromed it up and fixed it up and it must be worth $4,500 now." A hand-tooled boxing glove surmounts each of its saddlebags.

Durham, a gray-haired man of casual mien, coolly professes not to mind the motorcycle, though an accident on it would ruin what promises to be a first-rate gate. "It's his bike," says Durham. "He bought it and he rides it. I told him, 'If you're going to ride it, be a good bike rider.' He's been thrown on the bike but no bones broken. And anyway, the more people tell him not to, the more he'll do it. He's young, and he's got to get it out of his system. You know how young automobile drivers are. After a while they steady down. It's all part of growing up."

Durham is especially proud of his father-son relationship with Frazier, who, he says, first came to his notice when he was 18. (Frazier says he was 16.) "He came into the gym weighing 235 pounds," Durham recalls, "and all I saw then was that he was a strong boy who needed to get that weight off. I didn't pay too much attention to him at first because these kids come to the gym all the time, then quit when they find out how much work it is. But this fellow liked to work. He'd get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to run, then he'd come to the gym. He was powerful, he was determined and he did not mind working. If they're not there to work there's no sense in bothering with them."

Once he saw Frazier's determination, Durham had no hesitancy about adopting him as a protégé. He fashioned Frazier's style to fit the youngster's physique. Short arms and short, heavythewed legs, slightly knock-kneed, meant that Frazier would never cavort about the ring stabbing and jabbing like a Muhammad Ali.

Frazier, just a trifle under 6 feet, concedes the point. "When I spread out my arms as far as they go," he says, "it's still only 71 inches. So I have to fight different."

Aside from developing his young charge's punching power, which can be murderous, Durham taught him to move unrelentingly inside an opponent in order to reach him better. The manager-trainer resents, however, any suggestion that Frazier fights like the similarly short-armed Rocky Marciano.

"You never saw Marciano slipping punches the way Frazier does," he insists. "Frazier's more a Henry Armstrong type of fighter. His style is the best style you could put up against Cassius Clay."

Durham makes no attempt to dominate his fighter. "I let him ask me questions," he says. "I don't tell him. It's a good relationship."

There is also a good relationship within Frazier's camp. "We don't separate the fellows from each other," Durham says. "We all eat, sleep and play together."

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