Almost one year after the death of former world heavyweight champion "Smokin' Joe" Frazier, the city of Philadelphia, Frazier's family and representatives of the Cordish Companies today announced that a statue of the famed local boxer will be erected outside Xfinity Live, formerly the site of the Spectrum, where Frazier threw down in some of his toughest matches.
"Philadelphia has just an incredible wealth and history of great boxers, great fighters and great pugilists in the ring, and certainly Joe Frazier represents all that's good about the sweet science, all that's good about sport and, I think more importantly, all that's good about humanity," Mayor Michael Nutter said, adding that the honor was long overdue. Famed for wearing down his opponents with his relentless bobbing and weaving, then knocking them out with his powerful left hook, Frazier is perhaps best known for his longstanding bitter rivalry with Muhammad Ali, who he defeated in 1971's "Fight of the Century."
"He fought in a style that truly embodies the city of Philadelphia and what the city is really all about," Nutter said. "Joe Frazier was always about moving forward, virtually never taking a step backward – never – always moving forward, always cutting off the ring, always reducing the amount of space between him and whoever dared to step in the ring with him. He could take a punch, but he gave a whole lot. He might take a few more than he wanted to, but if you ever stood still long enough, he reared back with that left hook, lights out. Fight over. One punch. And just like Philadelphia, Joe did get knocked down a couple times, but he always, always, always got back up."
Frazier lost the final fight of his life when he succumbed to liver cancer last November. "My brothers and sisters and I all called Joe Frazier by different names," his daughter Renee Frazier-Martin said today. "He was 'pa,' 'daddy,' and 'padre' to us, but to the world, he was 'Smokin' Joe' Frazier, United States Olympic gold medalist of 1965, the heavyweight champion of the world with a record of 32, 4 and 1 with 27 knockouts. To the city of Philadelphia, he was just 'Joe.'"
– The statue plus a maintenance fund for its upkeep, together estimated at $150,000, will be created with donations accepted through city nonprofit the Fund for Philadelphia and FrazierStatue.com. Xfinity Live yesterday contributed $25,000 to kick off the fund.
– A committee of Frazier's family, friends and community activists will choose a design for the statue by the end of this year. Both local and nationally-recognized sculptors are invited to submit proposals.
– The city does not currently plan to directly contribute money to the statue's construction, as Nutter said it is being built on private land and can't be funded by capital dollars. They plan to unveil the statue by the end of 2013.