THEY say time is the ultimate healer. But for boxing legend Joe Frazier, it has taken more than 30 years and perhaps the sea air of Southampton to persuade him to forgive his great enemy, Muhammad Ali.

The duo forged perhaps the greatest rivalry in all sports history during the 1970s when they were involved in three titanic heavyweight battles.

Ali insulted his opponent mercilessly in the build-up to their fights, calling him "dumb, ugly and ignorant". He also nicknamed Frazier 'The Gorilla'.

Much of it was done in jest, but most concur that the charismatic self-styled 'Greatest' went too far when it came to Frazier.

It clearly still hurts the 60-year-old and the pair have had a strained relationship.

Frazier was afforded a rapturous standing ovation when he appeared at the De Vere Grand Harbour hotel.

The ex-Olympic and undisputed world heavyweight champion said: "I don't want to be a bad guy. I don't want my fans and I don't want Muhammad Ali's fans to feel that I'm a bad guy.

"He has said some low-down, dirty things about me. But I forgive him for that."

In his autobiography Smokin' Joe, Frazier previously said of Ali: "I ain't forgiven him for what he said and did.

"I stood up for him when few others did. Then when he got what he needed, he turned on me and said everything bad that he could."

Frazier's comments are the closest he has come to finally bringing an end to his feud with Ali, who has described Frazier as "a good man" and his "toughest" opponent since retiring.

A packed audience at the De Vere paid between £100 and £150 for their 'Audience with Joe Frazier'.

Over dinner, they watched footage of some of Frazier's greatest bouts, including the 1971 Madison Square Garden 'Fight of the Century' against Ali.

An auction, which including some classic framed and signed Ali photographs, raised thousands for the Tsunami appeal before Frazier was quizzed about his career.

He was inevitably asked about his losing 'Thrilla in Manila' battle with Ali which took both men to the absolute limits of mental and physical reserves.

Frazier's son Marvis was also in Southampton and he recalled his own career, which included a brutal 30-second defeat at the hands of Mike Tyson.

The evening was organised by former Southampton cruiserweight Pete Bunting, who is hoping to bring other legendary boxers to the city for similar shows.

Don't miss next Saturday's Daily Echo magazine for a full interview with Joe Frazier.