Nor is there any apprehension about the fight with Bob Foster, who has been defeated four times in his 45-bout professional career, twice (Ernie Terrell and Doug Jones) by knockouts.
"Foster's a good fighter," Durham concedes casually. "He's just run out of everything in his division. We don't know how he'll do against our animal. But I don't think he can punch as hard as Quarry or Ellis."
As for Muhammad Ali, whom no one in the Frazier camp ever refers to as anything but Cassius Clay, Durham announced in mid-October he was willing to bet $25,000 that the former champion's fight with Jerry Quarry in Atlanta never would come off. He was, furthermore, most dubious about the kind of gate that such a fight would realize on closed-circuit television. "A lot of places are going to ban it," he said. "I could have had a piece of the closed circuit, but I turned it down." Luckily for Durham, no one took him up on his bet; he was also wrong about the TV.
During Frazier's standard one-hour workout of punching the heavy bag, the speed bag, three rounds of boxing and such conditioning work as having a 20-pound medicine ball bounced off his belly, he demonstrated that his is indeed a most happy kind of training camp. He worked to the sound of phonograph music—a mix of rock and soul, a caterwauling that was loud if not clear. His partners danced and sang throughout the workout. Everybody had a good time, even those who had to get into the ring with the champ.
"Right now," he said between rounds, "I got to get in close and pound them. I got to get my weight down. Then I'll box. I want to come in at 204 or 205.
"Foster is a good person," he said later. "And he's a real good fighter. But why he wants to take me on, I don't know. Another fighter's speed—that doesn't bother me. I punch as I go in. The only handicap I have is fighting short fellows. That's because I'm used to fighting big, tall heavyweights."
He feels that his toughest professional fights were against Oscar Bonavena, the Argentinian still ranked just behind him by the World Boxing Association, and Buster Mathis, who has since dropped out of the rankings but managed to beat Frazier when both were competing for a place on the 1964 Olympic team. (Mathis then broke a finger, and Frazier went on to win the heavyweight gold medal.)
"Bonavena had me down in the first fight," he recalled, "but then in the second I beat him 12 out of 15 rounds. I respect him. He is not fast, but he is what I would call an awkward-smart fighter. You know what I mean?
"There's no way I can touch a man by trying to hit him with a long jab. With my reach it would be silly for me to throw a long jab. But when I get close to him I jab. I step in all covered up, then I jab."
Frazier's plans for the future include a final solution of the Muhammad Ali problem, if that can be arranged, and instant retirement thereafter. By then he will have put together quite enough money to satisfy his simple tastes. He estimates that he has been able to accumulate something like $35,000 or $40,000 a year singing with his rock group, billed as Joe Frazier and The Knockouts, and he has his eye on a seven-bedroom house near Germantown for himself, Florence Frazier and their five children.