Philadelphia launches fund-raising campaign for Joe Frazier statue

Mayor Nutter appears at a news conference to launch a fund-raising effort to build a statue in honor of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. MATT ROURKE / Associated Press
Mayor Nutter appears at a news conference to launch a fund-raising effort to build a statue in honor of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. MATT ROURKE / Associated Press
Posted: September 13, 2012

In the upstairs bedroom of his West Philadelphia home, 13-year-old Michael Nutter tuned his radio as Joe Frazier was readying for his "Fight of the Century" with Muhammad Ali.

Nutter listened when Frazier's left hook sent Ali spiraling to the mat in the 15th round. He listened when the judges handed Frazier a unanimous decision and a successful defense of the world heavyweight title.

On Wednesday afternoon, four decades after Frazier's win over Ali, Mayor Nutter honored the late Philadelphia sports icon as he announced the city's plan to erect a statue of Frazier in 2013 at South Philadelphia's Xfinity Live!

Frazier died in November after a short battle with liver cancer. He was 67.

"They say that life is a circle, and it's funny sometimes the things that you get to do," Nutter said. "It's a very personal moment for me to be in this position and make this announcement about someone I truly admire."

Frazier's daughter, Renae Frazier-Martin; sons Derek and Brandon; and son-in-law Peter Lyde joined Nutter at the City Hall news conference.

Nutter said the city has established a goal of $150,000 that will be fully paid through fund-raising. Lawyer Richard Hayden, who represents Xfinity Live!, said the goal is based on early proposals and the costs of similar projects. He said he had no doubts the goal will be met.

Tax-deductible donations can be made through FrazierStatue.com. Xfinity Live! kick-started the program with a $25,000 donation Wednesday.

The exact location of the statue has not been determined, but Hayden said it will not be part of the path that already includes statues of other sports figures. There are concerns with storm-water management and the likelihood that the project will be more than a statue.

Hayden envisions a project with a large opening that invites visitors to stop, learn about Frazier, and take their picture.

In his career in public office, Nutter learned there was more to Frazier than just his devastating left hook. Frazier was an incredible person and great Philadelphian, Nutter said.

"He was always ready with a quick smile," Nutter said. "Sometimes he'd tip his hat to you."

Frazier was a vocal supporter of the city and active in youth programs. Nutter said Frazier "represented all that's good about sport and, more importantly, all that's good about humanity."

Renae Frazier-Martin remembered her father as a simple man who loved Philadelphia. Frazier didn't like to fly, Frazier-Martin saud. Instead, he preferred driving his Cadillac. It was typical of her father to pull over and assist troubled motorists, Frazier-Martin said.

"He went to church here. He taught here. He gave here," said Frazier-Martin, 51. "And don't forget, he partied here, too."

Frazier-Martin lives in New York City and visited Xfinity Live! for the first time Wednesday. She said it was a nice location that will certainly draw people.

The bidding process for sculptors will begin in a few weeks, and Frazier-Martin said the family hasn't yet decided what they want the statue to look like.

"Just like Philadelphia, Joe did get knocked down a couple times," Nutter said. "But he always, always, always got back up."


Contact Matt Breen at 215-854-2814 or mbreen@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @matt_breen.

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