Former champ Frazier dies after fight with cancer
Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight champion who handed Muhammad Ali his first defeat yet had to live forever in his shadow, died Monday night in Philadelphia after a brief final fight with liver cancer. He was 67. The family issued a release confirming the boxer's death.
Frazier, who took on Ali in three momentous fights in the 1970s — including the epic "Thrilla in Manilla" — had been under home hospice care after being diagnosed just weeks ago with the cancer that took his life, a family friend said. Until then, Frazier had been doing regular autograph appearances, including one in Las Vegas in September.
Smokin' Joe was a small yet ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early. It was the left hook that dropped Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in the so-called "Fight of the Century."
Though he beat Ali in that fight, Frazier lost the final two and for many years was bitter about the role Ali forced him to play as his foil.
More recently, he said he had forgiven Ali for repeatedly taunting him. While the bout is celebrated in boxing lore, Ali and Frazier put on an even better show in their third fight, held in a sweltering arena in Manila as part of Ali's world tour of fights in 1975.
"They told me Joe Frazier was through," Ali told Frazier at one point during the fight.
"They lied," Frazier said, before hitting Ali with a left hook.
Finally, though, Frazier simply couldn't see, and trainer Eddie Futch would not let him go out for the 15th round. Ali won the fight while on his stool, exhausted and contemplating himself whether to go on.
"Closest thing to dying that I know of," Ali said afterward.
Frazier won the heavyweight title in 1970 by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their fight at Madison Square Garden. Frazier defended it successfully four times before George Foreman knocked him down six times in the first two rounds to take the title from him in 1973. Frazier would never be heavyweight champion again.
Kyle Busch gets $50,000 fine, warning
NASCAR driver Kyle Busch received the rest of his punishment from NASCAR on Monday. He still awaits any further actions taken by his sponsor or Joe Gibbs Racing team.
NASCAR has fined Busch $50,000 and placed him on probation until Dec. 31 for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. during last weekend's Truck series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch was immediately parked during the race, and his parking was continued through Saturday's Nationwide and Sunday's Sprint Cup races.
Unless his sponsor or team decides otherwise, Busch can return to action this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Team representatives for Busch had no new information on that issue on Monday.
There was a caveat in NASCAR's penalty.
"If during the remaining NASCAR events in 2011, there is another action by the competitor that is deemed by NASCAR officials as detrimental to stock-car racing or to NASCAR, or is disruptive to the orderly conduct of an event, the competitor will be suspended indefinitely from NASCAR," the statement read.
The warning about future behavior is similar to warnings NASCAR issued following the actions of Robby Gordon in 2007 and Kevin Harvick in 2002, which involved both drivers getting parked and missing Cup races.
■ NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick was released from a hospital Monday in Charlotte, N.C., a week after he was injured when his private plane ran off the runway during a landing. An evaluation last Tuesday showed Hendrick had four broken ribs and a broken shoulder.
Mayfield indicted on drug charges
A grand jury in North Carolina has indicted former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield on charges of possessing methamphetamine. Monday's indictment came about a week after the Owensboro native was arrested following a raid at his rural mansion that turned up 69 guns and what authorities allege were $100,000 in stolen goods from at least two businesses.
During the search, deputies also said they found goods stolen from at least two businesses and about 1.5 grams of meth.
Mayfield was later released on a $30,000 bond. The troubled driver was booted from NASCAR in 2009 after failing a drug test.
An attorney for Mayfield said last week that his client denies all the charges, and that the search was executed based on baseless allegations from an unreliable source.
Stern: Deal 'rational thing' for union
NBA players are facing a Wednesday afternoon deadline to accept the league's current proposal or face a harsher one that calls for rolling back their salaries, and Commissioner David Stern said Monday "the only rational thing to do is for us to make that deal."
"We think that there's a great offer on the table, and what we told the players is, it's getting late; the only rational thing to do is for us to make that deal because, given what's going on in our business and our industry, it'll get worse from there," Stern said during an interview on ESPN.
That proposal calls for players to receive anywhere between 49 and 51 percent of basketball-related income, though players argue it would be nearly impossible for them to get anywhere above 50.2. Stern said the next one will call for a 53-47 split in the owners' favor, along with essentially a hard salary cap.
The last word
The San Diego Chargers have to move on quickly from their latest loss (to Green Bay on Sunday night) because the archrival Oakland Raiders are coming to town Thursday night. It'll be quite the showdown, with the Chargers having lost three straight games and the Raiders having lost two. The teams are tied with Kansas City at 4-4 atop the AFC West, with Denver right behind at 3-5. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers said:
"Regardless of what happened thus far, good or bad, we can't change it. We've got an eight-game season that starts Thursday night. There's three teams deadlocked in the division, and Denver's spotting us all a game. They're right there in the thick of it. All four teams are alive. We've got eight to go. We'll see what happens."