Plans finalized for Joe Frazier statue

Posted: April 25, 2013

Philadelphia's reigning boxing standard-bearer kicked in a hefty donation Wednesday to honor the city's boxing past as Mayor Nutter announced the finalized plans for the Joe Frazier statue.

Bernard Hopkins, the IBF light-heavyweight champion, contributed $25,000 toward the statue, which Mayor Nutter said will be created by artist Lawrence J. Nowlan.

The statue will be unveiled at South Philadelphia's Xfinity Live next spring.

Nowlan is the artist who created the Harry Kalas statue in 2011 at Citizens Bank Park.

"Mr. Nowlan's previous work has proven to be exceptional, and I look forward to the finished product," Nutter said in a statement.

Nowlan said Frazier was his hero as he grew up in Philadelphia during the 1970s.

"I became aware of Joe Frazier the athlete and Smokin' Joe personality, during an era when the sweet science of boxing was at the forefront of the sporting world," Nowlan said in a statement.

Frazier died in November 2011 after a short battle with liver cancer. He was 67. The heavyweight, who trained out of his own gym on North Broad Street, won 32 of his 37 matches, with 27 wins by knockout.

Frazier was born in South Carolina and moved north as a teenager. Nicknamed "Smokin' Joe," he is best known for his 1971 15-round victory by unanimous decision over Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden.

Billed as "The Fight of the Century," the first of three Frazier-Ali bouts was viewed by an estimated 200 million people. Nutter listened to it on the radio in his West Philadelphia bedroom.

"Smokin' Joe is one of Philadelphia's great sports icons and deserves to be memorialized this way," Nutter said.

Along with Hopkins, the city received $70,000 from the Cordish family, $27,000 from the Hand family, and $25,000 from Jerry Perenchio.

According to the city, the $160,000 raised will cover the cost of the statue and a perpetual maintenance fund administered by the City Board of Trusts.

The Cordish Co. is the developer of Xfinity Live.

Perenchio helped promote Frazier's 1971 win over Ali.

Joe Hand, a longtime city boxing figure, was a charter member of Cloverlay Inc., a foundation set up to support Frazier after he won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 1964. Hand started the statue campaign last year.

"Joe never complained or spoke out about not having a statue, but it bothered me," Hand said in a statement. "It's about time we honored him. Joe deserves it. Philadelphia should be very proud of him."


Contact Matt Breen at mbreen@phillynews.com.

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