Details coming together for Joe Frazier statue

PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY NOWLAN Joe Frazier's statue will stand 8 feet tall and be positioned flush on the sidewalk to make it easier for fans to pose for pictures.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY NOWLAN Joe Frazier's statue will stand 8 feet tall and be positioned flush on the sidewalk to make it easier for fans to pose for pictures.
Posted: April 26, 2013

IT WILL BE larger than life. It will have energy. It will show the steely focus of the man, his determination, his power. And it will be sculpted by an artist who grew up in Philadelphia idolizing Joe Frazier and all that he stood for.

"Joe Frazier was my first sports hero," Lawrence J. Nowlan said yesterday, the excitement bubbling through his voice like World Series clubhouse champagne. You remember World Series clubhouse champagne.

The statue will be 8 feet tall and will stand at the corner of Pattison and 11th Street, near Xfinity Live's Spectrum Grill. In a good year, more than 6 million sports fans will gather in the area for Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers games. Frazier loved people. They loved him back.

They raised $160,000, which will cover the cost of creating and installing the statue, plus perpetual care. Cordish, which created Xfinity Live, led with $70,000. Joe Hand Promotions chipped in $27,000. Jerry Perenchio, who promoted that historic first Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight, anteed up $25,000. Bernard Hopkins and Golden Boy Promotions came up with the final $25,000.

Nowlan was chosen from a field of seven finalists. His work includes that terrific statue of Harry Kalas at Citizens Bank Park. He grew up in Overbrook Park, a 4-for-4 sports fan. Still is, even though he lives in Vermont now.

"Larry Bowa, Bob Clarke, Bob Kelly, those were the guys I liked," he recalled. "I was 6 when Frazier fought Muhammad Ali that first time. Boxing was big in the '70s, all those Friday night fights. I loved Frazier. He wasn't vicious, like some fighters. It was a job for him and he showed up focused, determined.

"I wanted to show him, eyes wide open, on his toes, coming forward, he was always coming forward. It was always about the energy."

But why 8-feet tall? "You do life-size and it appears small," he answered swiftly. "Eight feet, that's heroic."

And the pose? "I looked at a lot of videos of Frazier fights," he said. "The image I chose comes from a Sports Illustrated cover, that first fight with Ali. Joe has just knocked Ali down with that ferocious left hook. His right hand is cocked, ready to follow up, with a punch he didn't have to throw."

The completed work will not stand atop a pedestal, nor will it be flush on the sidewalk. "We want it to be accessible to the fans, posing for pictures alongside it," Nowlan explained. "There was talk of somehow showing his Olympic medal, his championship belt, as part of the base. We will talk about that."

The model has to be approved by the Art Commission, which meets once a month. Unveiling it in January 2014, on Frazier's birthday isn't feasible. "Perhaps in March, anniversary of that first Ali fight, spring, the city excited, the Flyers in the playoffs," Nowlan suggested.

Flyers in the playoffs? They have picked the right man for the job.

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