It’s time that one of Philadelphia’s greatest boxing legends got the statue he deserves
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA –If the statue of the fictional character Rocky Balboa is supposed to somehow symbolize the gritty spirit of Philadelphia, the late Joe Frazier was that spirit’s actual embodiment.
As part of an effort to get a statue erected to Frazier, who represented Philadelphia as the Heavyweight Champion of the World and was known in boxing circles as a knockout artist, the Champ’s Family came together with his closest friends in the boxing and political worlds and young boxers representing his legacy to celebrate his birthday last weekend at the African-American Art Museum on Seventh and Arch Streets in Center City.
While the boxing world and the political world have only fighting as a common link, these groups had a common message during the celebration. That message: It’s time that Joe Frazier’s boxing home showed one of the greatest heavyweights to lace up a pair of boxing gloves the respect that comes with a statue in his honor.
“It’s taken too long … It’s a major shortcoming on the city of Philadelphia and we have to rectify that,” said Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa. “We should have done this a long time ago. He’s a true champion. (Frazier) was a true Philadelphia champion, a Philadelphia icon. He was a world champion when there was one world champion, not like this alphabet of world champions. He was a great man outside the ring. He helped anybody. He was there for the kids, he was a great human being.”
As of now, everything in the planning stages because the family or the city has yet to commission a sculptor or a location, but the hearts are definitely in the right direction for something that should have been done a long time ago.
“You can go anywhere around the country and everybody knows Joe,” said former World Boxing Council Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. “Philadelphia is a rich city and has a lot of going on and they don’t have a statue of Joe Frazier and you put in a ‘Rocky”? That picture don’t work like that.”
We all know the tale of Frazier’s legendary feats inside the ring, especially the story of March 8, 1971 in what was billed as the Fight of the Century.
In his legendary first fight against Muhammad Ali, it was Fraizer’s straight left hook that knocked Ali off his feet in the 15th round and cleared the path to a unanimous decision over the man who is considered “The Greatest.”
Frazier would lose the third fight with Ali, “The Thrilla in Manilla, but Frazier pushed him to the point where he considered quitting at around the same time Frazier’s corner stopped the fight after the 14th round.
“There wouldn’t be a Muhammad Ali, if it wasn’t for a Joe Frazier,” said Holmes, who once worked as a sparring partner for both fighters. “Those two made each other.”
The thing that makes Frazier such a beloved figure here in Philadelphia was his love for the community, especially those who lived near his gym on North Broad Street and West Glennwood Avenue in North Philadelphia.
Neighborhood kids and adults not only learned how to box, but they also found a safe haven from the streets. There are not too many places in this city they can ever say they have a secure space for young people.
Unfortunately, the Frazier family would ultimately lose the gym to a discount furniture store, but there are organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation that are trying to get the gym preserved as a historic landmark.
Frazier’s hometown of Beaufort, S.C. is planning to build a bridge on Highway 21 and name it after him.
Smokin’ Joe Frazier deserves a statue in this city not just because he was one of the greatest fighters of all time, but because he was one of the greatest Philadelphians of all time. Frazier was our work ethic, our toughness, our heart and our soul.