Plans for statue of Joe Frazier in Philadelphia to be announced

A memorial to boxing great Joe Frazier will be in S. Phila.
A memorial to boxing great Joe Frazier will be in S. Phila.
Posted: September 11, 2012

Jimmy Binns recalled Joe Frazier as soft spoken and affable. He was a heavyweight champion and sports icon, and also a consummate gentleman who "would never do anything out of order," said the former Pennsylvania boxing commissioner.

"He was a gentle giant," said Binns. "And he was a lethal fighter, but he only demonstrated that inside the ring. Outside the ring Joe could've been a babysitter if you wanted him to."

On Wednesday afternoon, the city will announce its plans to memorialize Frazier with a statue at the sports complex in South Philadelphia. The 2 p.m. news conference will be held at City Hall and is expected to be formally announced Tuesday morning.

Robert Silver, who represents the Frazier estate, said the family had considered placing the statue near City Hall before choosing Xfinity Live! after the site's developers expressed interest in the project. All 11 of Frazier's children have assisted with the project, which Silver said is being headed by Frazier's daughters, Weatta Collins and Renae Martin, the executors of the estate.

The estate is still seeking a sculptor, and the design of Frazier's statue hasn't been finalized. It won't appear on Xfinity's "Road to Victory" leading to the Wells Fargo Center since there are concerns with storm water management and a likelihood that the project will include more than just a statue.

The absence of a statue hurt Frazier, Binns said, but Frazier would be the last person to say something about it.

"I think Joe would be very proud that his city finally recognized him for the great fighter that he was," Binns said.

Willie "The Worm" Monroe, who trained with Frazier, said it was a shame Frazier didn't live to see the statue.

"It's nice that it's going up, and his kids and family will enjoy it - but Joe can't."

Monroe and Frazier shared trainers, and Monroe was scheduled to fight on the undercard of Frazier's 1971 "Fight of the Century" win over Muhammad Ali. But his bout was scrapped due to time constraints.

Many have criticized the city for having a statue of the fictional Rocky Balboa, a gift from actor Sylvester Stallone, but not one of Frazier.

"There was Jersey Joe Walcott, but there just as well could have been a Philadelphia Joe Frazier because people in the boxing business identify Joe Frazier with the city and identify the city with the famous left hook, Binns said.

A solid left hook was essential to surviving the "gym wars" of Philadelphia, Binns said, and perhaps no one epitomized that more than Frazier. Frazier staked his career on his left hand and scored 27 of his 32 career wins by knockout. He spent nearly five years as world heavyweight champion and is best known for his three bouts with Muhammad Ali.

"That was his most feared punch, and that's the one he knocked Muhammad Ali down with at Madison Square Garden," said Binns, who was in the upper deck at that fight.

"It was so strong. It could've knocked down whatever building was in its way."


Contact staff writer Matt Breen at mbreen@phillynews.com. Follow @matt_breen on Twitter.

 

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