Joe Frazier DayMar 12, 2023 12:00PM ● By Mac Johnson
March 8th will now forever be known as a day to honor a giant in the world of Philadelphia sports, Smokin Joe Frazier. This year marks the 52nd anniversary of his victory over Muhammed Ali in the “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden. More than 100 of his friends, family, dignitaries, clergy and an overall living boxing hall of fame, including “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon Jr., Pete Lyde, Joe Hands Sr., and James “Jimmy” Binns, gathered to commemorate the day at his 11ft, 800 lb statue outside of Xfinity Live. The program started with a familiar sound in the boxing world, the bell ringing.
“Joe Frazier’s Character and accomplishments expanded beyond the boxing arena,” said Philadelphia City council member Kenyatta Johnson to open the ceremony. “He represented the true grit of what it means to be a Philadelphian and how to succeed against all odds.”
A man whose achievements are embedded in fact and not fiction, Smokin Joe Frazier set the standard for boxers out of Philadelphia, a city often viewed as one of boxing’s most influential cities being home to champions like Bernard Hopkins and Meldrick Taylor. Although he was born in South Carolina, he shed blood, sweat and tears while climbing the boxing ranks here in Philly. His work as a teen led to him winning the Olympic gold medal in heavyweight boxing in the 1964 games. He then turned pro, and he continued his meteoric rise to stardom.
“We’re standing at a Real statue of a real champ of a real person who lived in and fought for Philly, and the family continues to champion the city,” said Rev. Dr Alyn Waller, Senior pastor at Enon Tabernacle baptist church. “In a city that has so many problems but so much promise, there is a personality that shows us we’re going to be alright.”
Frazier’s imprint on the city reaches beyond a bronze statue, as his reach in the boxing ring goes beyond the left hook that dropped Ali in 1971. Until 2010, he owned and operated a boxing gym on N. Broad St. where gold gloves and Olympic medalists trained. He was also passionate about training the next generation of boxers and general young people.
“If we’re going to continue honoring Joe, let’s wrap our arms around these young people so that they can live out their dreams the way Joe did,” said Kenyatta Johnson.
Frazier even helped influence current professionals like North Philly’s Jesse “Hollywood” Hart.
“When I was a little boy, I remember Joe Frazier saying to me, there’s no right way to do wrong, but there’s no wrong way to do right,” said Hart at Frazier’s ceremony.
Hart told stories about his close relationship with the champ, even sharing an anecdote about Frazier giving him a ride to school and dishing out a crisp $20 for lunch money. Hart says the bond made him a better man, boxer, and champion for Philadelphia.
“This should be the goal for every fighter who ever gets in the boxing ring,” said Hart. “You should want a statue or something major in your city that’s going to live forever. That’s what I want.”
Although Frazier once set a record for receiving a $2.5M fighting purse for beating Ali in 1971, perhaps the greatest testament to his legacy is the work that’s still being done today through his children.
“My father identified as being one of gods men”, said Jacquelyn “Sister Smoke” Frazier-Lyde, the first woman to be inducted into the Pennsylvania boxing hall of fame. “In addition to putting on non-stop, action packed, no brakes boxing performances to excite boxing fans worldwide, my father tried to give back because so much was given to him.”
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