Al "Hollywood" Meggett still remembers the first time he witnessed Joe Frazier's infamous left hook.

It was during the 1964 Olympic boxing trials in Washington, D.C., when Meggett saw firsthand the devastating effect that the punch -- a lunging left hook that would define Frazier's career -- could have on an opponent.

"It was like lightning in a bottle," said Meggett, who has operated the Charleston Police Boxing Club for nearly three decades. "That hook was so fast. He would leave his feet if he had to, and there was nothing you could do to get out of the way. He was that quick. You ask Muhammad Ali about it, he'll tell you about that left hook."

Frazier, 67, died Monday night after a brief battle with liver cancer.

"Boxing has lost a great champion," Meggett said. "It's so sad that someone like Joe was taken from us. It's too soon. He was a hell of a guy."

As good as Frazier was during the Olympic trials that year, Meggett didn't envision the Lowcountry native becoming the heavyweight champion of the world and one of boxing's legends.

Frazier would go on that summer to become the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, despite fighting in the final bout with an injured left thumb.

"He was a great amateur fighter, but there have been a lot of great amateur fighters that haven't done anything once they turned pro," Meggett said. "He was special, but I didn't see him becoming the champ. I thought he'd have a good career, but I didn't see him becoming the kind of fighter he became. I guess I was wrong."

Darren "Broadway" Whitaker, who has helped train fighters at the boxing club nearly as long as Meggett, met Frazier on almost a half-dozen occasions.

"Joe was always at the big fights," said Whitaker, 50, who started training fighters locally in 1983. "He knew Hollywood and he would come up and talk with us all the time. You could talk to him. He's always been a good guy, easy to talk to. Very down to earth. Like a neighborhood guy.

"He always had some advice for the young fighters I was working with. I think that's what I appreciated the most about him. He would take time to get to know you as a person."

Over the years Frazier traveled to Charleston to visit Meggett at the Charleston Police Boxing Club. When Meggett opened the club in 1983, Frazier and Ali visited the gym on the same day.

"They didn't come at the same time, I don't think they liked each other much back then," Meggett said. "Joe spent about an hour here, showing the young guys how to move and how to stand to get the most out of their punches. He signed all the autographs and shook everyone's hands. That's just the kind of guy he was."

Frazier finished his career with a 32-4-1 record and 27 knockouts, with his three most famous fights coming against Ali. Meggett was there for their first fight dubbed the "Fight of Century" at New York City's Madison Square Garden in March 1971. Frazier won a unanimous decision to retain his heavyweight crown.

"I was an Ali guy," Meggett said. "It was one of the greatest fights I've ever seen."

Young boxers like Dillon Cohen, 21, know the name Joe Frazier, but little of his career.

"I know he fought Muhammad Ali and I just found out today that he's from around here," Cohen said. "My stepdad keeps telling me I need to see his fights, especially the 'Thrilla in Manila.' I think I will now."

Born an hour south of Charleston, in Beaufort, on Jan. 12, 1944, Frazier took up boxing early after watching weekly fights on the family's black-and-white television.

Frazier was small for a heavyweight, an inch under 6-0 and weighing just 205 pounds when he won the heavyweight title by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round in 1970. Meggett said he made up for his lack of size by putting constant pressure on his opponents.

"He wouldn't let you breathe in the ring," Meggett said. "You couldn't get away from him. He'd eventually get you and he wasn't afraid of nobody. He was fearless."

His reign as heavyweight champion lasted only four fights -- including the win over Ali -- before losing to George Foreman in 1973.

Frazier was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.