Mark Kram – Smokin’ Joe


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 sportswriter Mark Kram, Jr., unlinks Frazier from Ali and for the first time gives a full-bodied accounting of Fraziers life, a journey that began as the youngest of 13 children packed in a small farm house, encountering the bigotry and oppression of the Jim Crow South, and continued with his voyage north at age 15 to develop as a fighter in Philadelphia.

Tracing Fraziers 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.

Author: Mark Kram
Narrator: James Fouhey
Duration: 13 hours 13 minutes
Released: 19 Apr 2006
Publisher: HarperAudio
Language: English

User Review:

chimp moist

Mark Kram, Jr has written an excellent, and very honest book, about Joe Frazier. That Kram Jr holds Smokin Joe in very high regard is obvious, but he also talks about Fraziers long-running affair with Denise Menz, which the rest of the media covered up for half a decade. Also, as a black man, Ive always been offended by the many (white) authors whove always said that Muhammad Ali called Frazier an Uncle Tom for no reason, and that black America wrongly turned its back on Frazier just because of what Ali said. Kram, Jr, is the first author to talk about some of the things that Frazier himself did to turn off the black community, including his support of Frank Rizzo, the controversial Mayor of Philadelphia. (Kram Jr does not really go into it, but Fraziers support of Richard Nixon was another thing that angered black people.) Also, Kram Jr talks about how the Philadelphia Daily News wrote an article praising Frazier for being a one-woman man, even though he had children by several different woman while he was married to Florence, and even while he had the continuing affair with Menz. So not only do we see an honest portrayal of Joe, but we get to see how dishonest the rest of the media has been, because of their desire to hate on Ali while glorifying Frazier, who was, as Kram Jr points out, conciliatory toward white America.
Not that Ali was without blame, as the whole business of calling Joe the gorilla was completely wrong. When, as a TV reporter, I last interviewed Joe , he still held a lot of bitterness toward Ali, (I believe that was around 2007), but it was great to hear Kram Jrs inside story on a moment of reconciliation that he reveals at the very end of the book.
As for the audio elements, reader James Fouhey does great narration and voices.
My only problem is the production values, as you can hear where they dropped in corrected reads, which have a different sound to them.
Otherwise, one of the best books Ive listened to in a long time.