Frazier statue finds new life 2 years after death
- Article by: DAN GELSTON
- Associated Press
- November 7, 2013 - 7:25 PM
PHILADELPHIA — Joe Frazier's statue has found new life on the two-year anniversary of the former heavyweight champion's death.
Frazier's statue was set to be erected by spring 2014 at an entertainment complex near Philadelphia's three sports stadiums near the now-demolished Spectrum, an arena where he fought.
Plans to place the Frazier tribute in the same complex that is already home to the statues of Julius Erving and the Broad Street Bullies were sidetracked when the sculptor commissioned by a city panel to create the statue, Lawrence J. Nowlan, died in August.
Philadelphia sculptor Stephen Layne has picked the project off the mat and was selected to create a piece that should be finished by the end of next year.
Frazier died Nov. 7, 2011 after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67.
Philly boxer Bernard Hopkins was among the prominent boosters who helped the city reach its $150,000 fundraising goal for the statue.
"Smokin' Joe" slugged his way to the heavyweight title in 1971 by becoming the first boxer to beat Muhammad Ali. They fought two more classic bouts, including 1975's "Thrilla in Manila." Frazier lost both rematches.
Layne is set to get started on the 9-foot statue he based off a photo of Frazier's knockdown of Ali.
"He just threw that Philly left hook and knocked Ali down," Layne said Thursday. "That's the moment I thought was quintessential Joe. It was the big deal of his career. The moment. So that's what I captured for this piece."
Frazier's legacy is stronger than ever in Philadelphia, and the long-awaited statue is just the latest tribute for the former champ.
The Philadelphia gym where he lived and trained was been named in April to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation will help protect the building and commemorate Frazier's legacy. Frazier converted the three-story north Philadelphia building into a gym in 1968. He lived upstairs and trained downstairs.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation last year placed the gym on its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Frazier sold the building in 2008, and it soon became partially occupied by a furniture store.
"My father was a very modest man," said Weatta Collins, Frazier's daughter. "He didn't make a big deal about those things and that's why he didn't implement them when he was alive. I think it's a wonderful thing."
Prince Marketing Group, which represented Frazier, has negotiated deals with apparel companies for a line of T-shirts, robes and other items licensed by his estate. Frazier's image is set to appear on online slots, though MX Gaming, said his former agent Darren Prince.
The Frazier memorial, which will stand at Xfinity Live at 12 feet thanks to a 3-foot base, might finally quiet critics who have long derided the city for showering more brotherly love on fictional movie fighter Rocky Balboa than on a real champion.
A statue of Rocky — it's actually a movie prop left over from "Rocky 3" — stands beside the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Collins was glad her father's statue would serve as a permanent reminder of all he did for the city and boxing.
"As long as people remember him," she said, "that would be a blessing. We're pretty grateful."
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