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Fleming Mosely III nearly beat Joe Frazier

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Fleming Mosely III

Dr. Fleming Mosely III once came close to defeating a young Joe Frazier in the ring — and that’s not his only claim to fame.

Mosely also excelled in track and field and football at Monessen High School, playing for two conference champions and earning All-Big Six honors as a member of the city’s junior high football team that captured the Junior WPIAL title in 1952.

Six years later, he was a member of California State College’s undefeated squad, which won its games by an average margin of 26-4.

He earned all-state recognition as a junior in college and Little All-American honors as a senior. He was a four-year starter on the offensive line and handled nose guard duties for two seasons as well.

He started boxing in 1954 with the Monessen Raven Athletic Association and quickly learned the fine points of the sweet science. A few years later, he trained at the Iowa School Annex.

“I had an old guy named Swats Adamson from Charleroi who taught boxing,” said Mosely.

Mosely was once matched against his brother, Delmar, in a semifinal Golden Gloves event in Pittsburgh “when I was around 16 or 17, and he was one year older,” said Mosely. He called the bout, which he “won, a weird experience.” His next fight gave him the Pittsburgh Golden Gloves title.

“I was the smallest one they ever had,” Mosely said about his experience at a heavyweight. “I weighed about 175 pounds, but I had speed and a powerful punch. Most of my wins came on knockouts.”

Mosely moved to the Cleveland area, where he added another Golden Gloves title. That qualified him to join the United States boxing team, which held an elimination tournament in Washington, D.C.

There, he won his first three bouts, two by knockout and the third on a TKO. Those wins propelled him to the championship fight againts “Smokin’ Joe.”

Mosely had Frazier figuratively on the ropes, leading on points until the mauler out of Philadelphia battered Mosely to win by a TKO. Frazier went on to win the gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo before becoming heavyweight champ of the world.

“We stayed friends for a long time,” said Mosely. “Every time he came around, he’d recognize me.”

Mosely is proud that he gave Frazier a battle before losing.

“It was close,” Mosely said. “The thing I remember the most was my stupidity — I decided I was going to knock him out, and when you go to knockout people, your punches kind of slow down because you’re aiming and trying to throw all you weight into it.

“I wound up with this left hook to his stomach and then threw to his head, and he threw a right cross on me — and that was the last thing I remember.”

Mosely was able to get up and was ready to fight again, but the referee stopped the bout.

“Frazier was tough, but I had the fight,” Mosely recalled. “But I wanted a knockout. That was it.”

Mosely believes he won the first round handily by using boxing savvy.

“I was getting in nice, sharp punches for points,” he said. “I felt like I was rocking him, but it was’t doing me any good. He’s hard to get off his feet — I should have stayed with what I was doing. I was going to rock him and I got out-rocked.”

In the second round, Mosely began trading punches. He came to realize Frazier packed a wallop, which led to his decision to return to his early tactics for the start of round three.

At one point in the final round, Mosely staggered Frazier, but the rugged boxer refused to fall. When Frazier finally did stop Mosely, the Monessen pugilist was still ahead on points.

Mosely said he did not pursue a professional boxing career because there was too much fraud.

“I saw too many people getting cheated and robbed in it,” he said. “In other words, some of these guys would fight on cards and the promoters wouldn’t pay them.”

Mosely and his wife Emily, a lifelong teacher, live in Lorain, Ohio, where they raised three children, Christopher, Constance and Fleming IV, all good athletes.

Mosely retired after a long career as an educator — he coached, spent six years in the classroom, earned a doctorate in education and became a principal in the Lorain school system before retiring in 1988.

Wayne Stewart is a free lance writer.

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