For years, many have wondered why Philadelphia did not have statue honoring any of the legendary boxers the city has produced.
However, with the unveiling of a 12-foot bronze statue of Hall of Fame heavyweight champion Joe Frazier Saturday in front of Xfinity Live, the oversight has been rectified.
The rain held off long enough for Mayor Nutter to proclaim Saturday "Joe Frazier Day" in Philadelphia. Not long after he issued the proclamation under gray skies, the statue of Frazier throwing his famous left hook was revealed. Family and friends pulled the green shroud off the statue in front of several hundred fans at the corner of Pattison Avenue and 11th Street.
"This is the statue that you should be taking your picture next to," Nutter said, referencing the famous statue of the fictional Rocky Balboa with his hands raised in front of the Art Museum. "[Frazier] is a real fighter and a real person. They could have made a movie about his life and called it 'Joe.' It would be great, and it would be about someone who did something in this city, this country, and the world."
Frazier's story began in Beufort, S.C., where he was the 12th of 13 children born to his parents. He moved to Philadelphia by himself at 15. He went on to win an Olympic Gold medal in 1964 and the WBA world heavyweight championship in 1970, when he stopped Jimmy Ellis in four rounds. His three-fight trilogy with Muhammad Ali is widely recognized as the greatest three-fight series in the history of boxing. In 1967, Frazier took part in the first sporting event at the Spectrum.
Frazier (32-4-1, 27 knockouts) retired in 1981. He continued to train and mentor thousands of fighters here and ran a successful gym on Broad Street that produced great fighters, including light-heavyweight and heavyweight champ Michael Spinks. His son, Marvis, fought professionally as well.
Frazier died from liver cancer in 2011 at the age of 67.
Statue artist Stephen Layne re-created the famous punch that Frazier used to knock down Ali in the 15th round of their March 8, 1971, fight. Frazier was the first fighter to defeat Ali.
"I found my inspiration in that photo," Layne said.
Marvis Frazier, who turned 55 on Saturday, said the statue was a "birthday gift that brought memories of my father flooding back."
Former mayor and governor Ed Rendell and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson both spoke.
Bernard Hopkins, Philadelphia-born boxer who has held many world championship belts, has been outspoken for year about getting a statue of Frazier placed in the city.
"This is about paying homage to a great man," Hopkins told reporters Saturday. "People should take the good things about him, all the things he did for people, and carry it with them. That's how he should be remembered."