Muhammad Ali: "I'm pulling" for Frazier

Muhammad Ali, left, throws a punch at Joe Frazier during their Jan. 28, 1974 bout at Madison Square Garden in New York.
AP Photo/File

Muhammad Ali is pulling for a former boxing foe who is currently fighting cancer.

The boxing icon issued a statement to CBS News following reports that former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, 67, has liver cancer and is under hospice care.

Frazier was diagnosed four or five weeks ago, Frazier's personal and business manager Leslie Wolff told The Associated Press Saturday. Wolff said doctors have not yet told Frazier how long he has to live.

Former boxing champ Joe Frazier has liver cancer

In a statement today Ali said, "The news about Joe is hard to believe and even harder to accept. Joe is a fighter and a champion and I am praying he is fighting now.

"My family and I are keeping Joe and his family in our daily prayers. Joe has a lot of friends pulling for him, and I'm one of them. "

Frazier won the heavyweight title in 1970 by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their fight at Madison Square Garden. He 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.

"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. Frazier was the first man to beat Ali, knocking him down with a left hook in the 15th round of their first fight at Madison Square Garden in 1971, in a bout where each fighter earned an unheard-of $2.5 million.

Frazier won the decision in the so-called Fight of the Century, but would go on to lose two more fights to Ali, including the epic "Thrilla in Manila."

In their third fight, held in a sweltering arena in Manila as part of Ali's world tour of fights in 1975, Frazier was nearly blinded by Ali's punches. He still wanted to go out for the 15th round of the fight but was held back by trainer Eddie Futch, in a bout Ali would later say was the closest thing to death he could imagine.

Frazier was bitter for many years about the way Ali treated him then. More recently, he said he had forgiven Ali for repeatedly taunting him.