It was what you had to endure because often your body literally did not belong to you, so within that some dignity had to be found, some power, some meaning.
All of this was, in the expression of James Baldwin (a lover of boxing), “the price of the ticket”.
But where Frazier was prose, Ali was poetry – mercurial, like lightning. And for a long time, that pretty face stayed intact.
Like most American kids who grew up in the late Fifties, I was plopped down in front of a big black and white television set as soon as I was able to sit up on my own.
Then along came Joe Louis, with his baby face and humble manner, who became the symbol of the triumph of America over the Nazi Superman, as symbolised by his opponent in two world heavyweight fights, Max Schmeling.
As my husband, who boxed at school, likes to remind me as we do an occasional few rounds in the kitchen, boxing is about rendering your opponent incapable of carrying on. But it is also about the body and the mind, with the mind always ahead of the body, no matter what those who do not box like to think.
In other words, boxing is about stopping the action. You have to be smart to be a great boxer; smart about the ways of the human under pressure.
That he and Schmeling later became friends was incidental.
It was the fights they fought that mattered; the symbol that they were, the message that they sent out.
He lost the Thrilla too, but no one could dispute his bravery in that showdown over 14 rounds fought in 100-degree heat, least of all Ali, who remembered Frazier as “the roughest and the toughest…