(i. m. Joe Frazier, 12th January, 1944 -- 7th November, 2011)
In the sweat-shrouded ring, sparks pounced
from his gloves.
I saw his overcast face, right eye swollen shut
as he squinted to see his way,
Crunching undercut primed, through fourteen rounds
Of Metro Manila heat, fulminic taunts sneered
at him from the ring-side.
Photos of him linger on the evening news: a man
sculpted from fire, instead of feeble clay,
Arms case-hardened, fists cemented against both
defender and challenger.
Manhandled by obsession, neither sham-artist
He stood unflinching in the spotlight, poised
in green trunks, sweating
And determined: the very prime of warrior-hood.
A god of few rugged words, applause
and scorn discolouring his name.
No challenge to waken him back
to another sweltering fight; fists raw
As sand, hawk’s eye gashed open,
head kept low, shoulders huddled
As he bobbed between blows.
The smell of blood clotting his nostrils,
Bogus fighters gave no answer:
Joe Frazier was a left-hooking giant,
Shrivelled up by liver cancer.