Back then, [Ali] had called Frazier an Uncle Tom, said he was much too ugly to be a champion and called him, on the occasion of their third fight, a gorilla. Frazier, unable to fight back verbally, for words were never among his weapons, remained hurt and bitter long after the fights were over.

When Ali finally apologized, he accepted the fact that he had wounded another, very worthy man. “Joe’s right (to be bitter). I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment that I shouldn’t have said. Called him names I shouldn’t have called him. I apologize for that. I’m sorry. It was all meant to promote the fight.”

Ali’s apology was both magnanimous, and long overdue. What he had said at the time was cruel and unacceptable. He had taken Frazier, the least political of men, and cast him in the most unlikely of roles, that of the great white hope, a role that Frazier in no way deserved.

‘Because of Frazier, We Know How Great Ali Was’ — David Halberstam, ESPN, 2001

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