Frazier statue funding goal reached

FILE PHOTO Joe Frazier, connecting against Muhammad Ali with hisfamous left hook that Bernard Hopkins believes should be bronzed.
FILE PHOTO Joe Frazier, connecting against Muhammad Ali with hisfamous left hook that Bernard Hopkins believes should be bronzed.
Posted: April 25, 2013

BERNARD HOPKINS will tell you how the statue of Joe Frazier ought to look, before you even ask.

"Crouched," Hopkins rasped, "ready to launch that left hook! His left hook! I tell people that Joe Frazier invented that left hook, that people came from all over the world to watch him train, to talk to him, to learn now to throw that left hook."

Hopkins talks that way, sprinkled with italics and exclamation points. He has earned the right to voice his opinion. Not that that ever stopped him before. Haters call him mouthy. Fans call him bold. You can call him the oldest fighter to win a championship, a Philadelphia icon, a guy who spun his life around and kept it going in the right direction.

He contributed a large chunk of money for the overdue statue. He got Golden Boy Promotions to contribute a similar chunk of money that put the fund-raising over the top.

Details, including the pose, will be announced by the mayor's office on Wednesday. Hopkins will scurry back from New York, where he is promoting Danny Garcia's fight against Zab Judah.

"Joe Frazier was a blue-collar fighter in a blue-collar town," Hopkins said. "He was born in South Carolina, but he represented Philadelphia. He fought with courage, he fought with heart.

"He won an Olympic gold medal, he won the heavyweight championship, he's a Hall of Famer. He never took a step backwards, even when that wasn't the best strategy. Maybe he didn't have the most talent in the world, but he had the will to win."

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, of parishes, of gyms. Frazier's North Philly gym is now a cut-rate furniture store, and that is sad.

"First time I went to that gym I was 8 or 9," Hopkins recalled. "My uncle, Archie McCloud, took me there. I remember meeting Jimmy Young there. His sky-blue Caddy was parked on Glenwood, alongside the gym.

"I trained there for a time. I even fought there, on what they called Trophy Nights. Fought Robert 'Bam Bam' Hines. He stopped me, gave me a beating.

"I drive past that gym, yeah I know it's a furniture store now, and I think, 'Boy, have I come a long way.' "

There were times when Hopkins screeched about the injustice of having a Rocky statue in front of the Art Museum and nothing to honor Frazier. He has softened his stance.

"The 'Rocky' movie, that brought attention to Philadelphia," he said. "Then they kept making another one and another one. But that first one, about being an underdog and accomplishing something, that was good for Philadelphia.

"I'm not gonna say anything about Rocky as a fighter. He was a character in a movie. Joe Frazier was the real Rocky."

Art imitates life in that first flick. Rocky pounds slabs of beef in a slaughterhouse. Frazier worked in a slaughterhouse before he went off to Tokyo and won a gold medal with a busted thumb. Work ethic? Frazier used to talk wistfully about growing up in Beaufort, S.C., working in the fields "from sunup till sundown."

And now Hopkins keeps fighting in his late 40s, breaking his own record, oldest fighter to win a championship. Perhaps someday, a statue of B-Hop?

"No," he said swiftly. "Do you know what I want? I want to build a community center in Germantown. Open 7 days a week. All year round. The kind of thing my friend Shane Victorino did with that Boys [and Girls] Club.

"That would be my statue. Not just a place for athletes to gather. A place where kids could learn. That's what the community needs. I can see giving scholarships to kids, college scholarships, maybe 30, 40, 50. And not just for kids in that neighborhood. Kids from North Philly, from South Philly. Regardless of color."


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