The last time the Philadelphia 76ers went to the NBA Finals they had a dominant big man in the middle. In 2001, the Sixers played the Los Angeles Lakers for the league championship. The center was Dikembe Mutombo at the time. Mutombo, a 7-foot-2, 245-pounder, averaged 10.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game that season.
He was also the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Mutombo was a force in the middle. He wasn’t a big time scorer, but a great shotblocker and rebounder. Well, the Sixers acquired all-star center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team blockbuster trade this summer and Mutombo feels Bynum should be able to do great things for the Sixers.
“I’m so happy with the trade,” said Mutombo, who was recently in town to participate in the Liberty Medal presentation to boxing legend Muhammad Ali at the National Constitution Center. “Bynum is a young man with full talent ahead of him. He’s a great offensive rebounder and shotblocker. I think his offensive skills are much higher than me when I was at his age.
“I think he has a great future. I just pray that he has a healthy season and that he can give the Philly fans something they’ve looking for. They’re looking for another big man who can block shots. I think they got him. He’s a big steal for them.”
Bynum, a 7-foot, 285-pounder, was originally picked by the Lakers with the 10th pick overall in the 2005 NBA draft. He played his scholastic basketball at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J. The 24 year-old standout averaged career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He was rated 20th in the NBA in scoring, third in rebounding, sixth in blocks (1.93) and fourth in field goal percentage. He joins Dwight Howard who now plays for the Lakers as the only players who tallied at 10 points, 10 rebounds and 1.50 blocks last season.
“I had a chance to spend a couple weeks with Adam Aron [Sixers CEO and co-owner],” Mutombo said. “I told him this is going to be big for them.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Muhammad Ali’s fists made him famous, but his role as a social activist was perhaps his biggest fight.
At the Muhammad Ali Center, visitors see the three-time world heavyweight champion railing against war, segregation and poverty. They also see the softer side of a man embracing spiritual growth.
On Saturday, the center will be in the limelight when Ali is surrounded by friends for a private party celebrating his 70th birthday. Having spent more than a decade raising money to create and operate the six-story center in downtown Louisville, Ali and his wife, Lonnie, are using the champ’s latest personal milestone to benefit the 6-year-old complex.
The party, in a banquet room offering a sweeping view of the Ohio River, will double as a $1,000-per-person fundraiser for Ali’s beloved center, where the boxer’s words are inscribed throughout the exhibits.
Australian Ben Physick, who toured the center with his wife recently, said he was especially moved by Ali’s pronouncement that he was put on the planet not to be a great boxer but to fight injustice and racism.
“It isn’t just about boxing, it’s about being a better person,” Physick said.
The center traces Ali’s remarkable life and the turbulent times that helped shape one of the world’s most recognizable figures. Ali, who is battling Parkinson’s disease, turns 70 on Tuesday.
“The Ali Center is a vessel for sharing Muhammad’s legacy and championing his social significance,” Lonnie Ali said Thursday in a statement to The Associated Press. “The center empowers people — especially youth — to create transformational change in the world.”
Born as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942, he grew up in a predominantly black West End neighborhood of Louisville.
He took up boxing at age 12, later becoming a top amateur boxer and Olympic gold medalist.
Ali, raised in a Baptist family, announced his conversion to the Muslim faith soon after defeating Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavyweight crown for the first time. He moved to Miami in the early 1960s but kept his close ties to Louisville, where he has a home today. The Alis also have homes in Michigan and Arizona.
The center showcases Ali’s grace and power as a boxer with video replays of his most famous bouts and plenty of memorabilia, including a rhinestone-studded boxing robe, a gift from Elvis Presley.
Visitors can also shadowbox, punch a speed bag and lean into a heavy bag that lets them feel the power of an Ali punch.
The center focuses on Ali’s causes outside boxing with a series of video, photograph and text displays. Ali envisions the center as a place to promote world understanding and peace.
“His legacy reaches so far beyond the ring,” said Jeanie Kahnke, a center spokeswoman.
Though largely absent from the public eye now, Ali remains a powerful symbolic figure. Last year, Ali, along with other high-profile political dignitaries, backed efforts to free two American hikers held captive for more than two years in an Iranian prison. The hikers were eventually released.
The center, built around the accomplishments of someone who called himself “The Greatest,” encourages visitors to reach their own potential by promoting six core values: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and spirituality.
That message still resonates today, Ali’s wife said.
“Muhammad and I always envisioned an organization that would use Muhammad’s life as a model to encourage people everywhere to ‘keep their eyes on the prize,’ to work hard to reach their potential and to achieve their dreams,” Lonnie Ali said.
Muhammad Ali’s social commentary is woven into the displays.
“There are lots of moments when you sort of get chills,” said Physick, the Australian.
One display revives painful memories of segregation. It features a lunch counter and a gruff voice to mimic the experience of blacks who were denied seats. Ali was refused service at a Louisville restaurant after he returned home as a gold medal winner in the 1960 Olympics.
Other exhibits replay the turbulent 1960s and Ali’s role as a civil rights supporter and opponent of the Vietnam War.
Ali was stripped of his boxing title in 1967 for refusing to go into the Army during the war, citing his religious beliefs.
His decision turned him into a polarizing figure, reviled by many in the U.S.
The center doesn’t shy away from those days. One exhibit features a congressman’s comments that Ali’s decision was “an insult to every mother’s son serving in the armed forces.”
Ali, who was convicted of draft evasion, took his legal battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1971 ruled in his favor.
The center has drawn visitors from more than 100 countries. Cases display the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received from President George W. Bush, and the torch that Ali carried at the opening of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“Some people have come to Louisville just to experience this,” Kahnke said. “They’ve never been to the United States before. I think they feel like it’s the closest thing to the champ that they’ll ever get.”
Physick, who lives in Sydney, was born two years before Ali’s boxing career ended in 1981. He toured the center as part of a trip across the U.S.
In a way, Ali was a fixture in his boyhood home — his brother had a life-size photo of Ali standing over a defeated opponent.
“The only reason we came to Louisville was to see the Ali Center,” he said. “I think I could spend a whole day here.” — (AP)
They came in cars, vans, trucks and limousines. There were reporters, photographers, television news crews and radio reporters from local and national media outlets. They all came to pay their final respects to Joe Frazier, former heavyweight champion, and one of Philadelphia’s most beloved sports heroes.
More than 2,500 people attended Smokin’ Joe’s funeral services Monday morning at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, 2800 Cheltenham Ave. Of the many sports figures and celebrities at the service were boxing great Muhammad Ali, boxing promoter Don King and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The presence of Ali at Frazier’s homegoing service was huge. It was those classic fights between Frazier and Ali that will always have a unique place in the history of boxing. He clashed with Ali in three memorable fights in the 1970s — including the famous “Thrilla in Manila,” of which Ali said that bout brought him “as close to dying as I’ve ever come” because Frazier hit so hard. Frazier dropped Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in what was known as “Fight of the Century.” Although he beat Ali in that fight, Frazier lost their final two. Nevertheless, he and Ali are forever entwined and hold a very special place in the annals of boxing.
A very detailed program was passed out to all in attendance. It mentioned some of Frazier’s famous quotes such as “I’m just an average Joe,” “Mustang Sally,” “They trying to get me,” and “Put your number on that, please.” During the service, there was some great gospel music by the choir. Frazier enjoyed gospel music. His favorite singers were the Revs. C.L. Franklin and Marvin Sapp. Frazier also enjoyed music in general. He had a singing group at one time called Joe Frazier and the Knockouts.
In addition to boxing and music, Frazier cared about people — particularly family. Renae Frazier-Martin, 50, Frazier’s oldest daughter, was impressed by the outpouring of warmth and affection shown toward her father.
“I’m so glad about the support we’ve been getting from my dad’s family and fans,” Frazier-Martin said. “He’s always been there for his children. He had 11 kids. It’s hard, but he’s always been there for all of us and the grandkids. I know I’m going to miss my dad. I love him. I just want to keep his memories close to my heart. His family is his legacy to us.”
Frazier was the youngest of 13 children born to Rubin and Dolly Frazier in Beaufort, S.C. But Philly has always been home for him. Gary Collins, Frazier’s son-in-law, said he will always have great memories of Frazier, and not only as a fighter.
“He was a great champion who had spectacular accomplishments,” Collins said. “He was a fantastic father to his children. He was very personable. When he would come to visit, he wasn’t the champion of the world. He was “Pop Pop.” To my wife (Weatta Frazier-Collins), he was dad and to me he was Pop. He was just a fantastic guy.”
Frazier was a true people’s champion. He was, as he liked to say, an average Joe. People will remember that. They will also remember his brilliant career. He compiled a 32-4-1 record with 27 knockouts, holding the heavyweight title from 1970 through 1973.
Forever one of Philadelphia’s favorite adopted sons, “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier died Nov. 7, losing his battle to liver cancer. He was 67.
Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was recognized as a champion of freedom on Thursday night at the National Constitution Center’s 2012 Liberty Medal ceremony.
The event served as the centerpiece for the national celebration of the U.S. Constitution’s 225th anniversary.
The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. The award is given annually. The medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.
“When I think of my dad, I don’t think athlete,” said a former professional boxer and Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila. “My dad … I put him on such a high pedestal as a man. I’m just so proud of him. He’s done everything he stood for and basically just standing for what you believe in. I’m very happy and honored to be here to present the award.”
Ali has long served as an icon of constitutional ideals and the realization of the American dream – all the while challenging and expanding the very definition of “We the People.” The Olympic gold medalist and boxing legend has been an outspoken fighter for religious and civil rights; a conscientious objector who took his battle to the Supreme Court and won; an ambassador for peace and justice worldwide; and a timeless humanitarian and philanthropist.
“On behalf of Muhammad, let me sincerely state how incredibly honored he is to be here this evening, as the recipient of the Liberty Medal,” said Lonnie Ali, wife of Muhammad Ali. She delivered the acceptance speech on his behalf. “It is to be honest—overwhelming, especially given the remarkable group of people who have previously been the recipient of the prestigious award. It is especially humbling for Muhammad, who has said on many occasions, “All I did was stand up for what I believe.”
In 1967, Ali refused induction into the U.S. Armed Forces due to his religious beliefs. As a result, he was arrested, fined, stripped of his boxing license and title.
Though Ali was prepared to pay the price for his convictions, the Supreme Court reversed the decision in 1971, ruling that his refusal stemmed from his constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Ali regained his title in 1974 and retired from the ring in 1981.
He has since devoted his life to helping promote world peace and other humanitarian efforts. His work as an ambassador for peace began in 1985, when he flew to Lebanon to secure the release of four hostages. Ali also has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered more than $1 million in medical aid to Cuba.
In 2005, Ali and Lonnie opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. The Ali Center is a museum and educational edifice that inspires young people and adults. Dikembe Mutombo, former NBA star, and National Constitution Center Trustee, talked about the impact Ali had on his life.
“He’s a great legend,” he said. “He’s someone who has a huge impact on society. He believes in so many things we stand for and what we want this world to become. He has inspired so many young people including myself. I’m just so glad to be here with his wife and daughter and family to share this moment with them.”
Thursday evening’s Liberty Medal ceremony marked Ali’s return to the National Constitution Center. He participated in a special Flag Day ceremony on June 14, 2003 – just before the center’s official opening. In fact, he was the first to raise the American flag that hangs in the Grand Hall Overlook and had previously flown over every state and territory capitol.
Other celebrities at the event Thursday night included Olympic gold medalists Claressa Shields and Susan Francia who joined Laila Ali in presenting the Liberty Medal to Muhammad Ali. Shields became the first American women to win a boxing gold medal at the Olympics. Francia is a two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion rower from Penn. In addition, Academy Award-nominated actor Terrence Howard, who played Ali in the ABC biopic “Muhammad Ali: King of the World,” Joe Louis Barrow, II, son of professional boxer Joe Louis and Grammy Award winning singer Roberta Flack, Pennsylvania governor Thomas W. Corbett and Philadelphia mayor Michael A. Nutter attended the ceremony.
Ali turned 70-years-old this year. He has continued to break new ground as an advocate for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a disease he has battled since 1982. He’s a man who continues to make a difference in the lives of so many people.
“Ali was reason why I got into boxing,” said Tyrell Biggs, an Olympic gold medalist and former professional boxer who also played basketball at West Philadelphia High School. He provided a video tribute to him at the ceremony. “He was so confident. I think to see him do all the things that he’s done has made me a better person.”
I first met Joe Frazier when I was a martial arts-obsessed teenager who wandered into Frazier’s gym on North Broad Street, hoping to get some boxing training. I ran into him many times over the years since, and he was always as kind and gracious as he was that first day.
What struck me at first was his size. At just under six feet tall, maybe 200 pounds or so, he was not the imposing physical specimen you’d expect from the heavyweight champion of the world. Even as a teen, I was larger than he was.
Then he shook my hand. His meaty paw swallowed mine, and his firm grip was almost frightening. But what was so large and imposing about Frazier was not the size of his muscles, but the size of his heart.
He was, without question, the most fierce and determined warrior I have ever seen step into the ring. Even though he was born in South Carolina, he was the prototypical Philadelphia fighter — always walking forward, bobbing and weaving — and steadily launching thunderous left hooks, each with vicious intent.
The last time I saw the champ, a few years ago, he still looked great. I had just interviewed his daughter, Jacqui, now a Philadelphia judge, but then a punishing puncher in her own right.
Smokin’ Joe smiled that megawatt Frazier grin at me, then broke down in a mock stance and feinted a playful, half-hearted left hook in my direction. For just a second there, I was scared out of my wits.
It was the same left hook that broke Ali’s jaw, that knocked Jimmy Ellis through the ropes, which had sent dozens of professionally trained heavyweight fighters crashing to the canvas in a crumbled heap. As quickly as the thought of my life flashing before my eyes, the champ then embraced me in a warm, genuine hug.
That, to me, is the essence of a man like Joseph William Frazier. He was never the aloof, distant celebrity who looked down on the common folk. Joe was the common folk. You could always find Joe, because he was always around. You could run into him at the grocery store, gas station, barbershop or just hanging out in Center City. And he had those same warm hugs for everyone.
I suspect he was aware of his status as a hero to thousands of Philadelphia fight fans, as a true legend in what may be the world’s toughest sport, as a mentor to untold numbers of inner city kids looking for direction, and as the living symbol of the heart, the toughness, the determination and soul of the city that never quite embraced him as warmly as he did us.
Smokin’ Joe Frazier wasn’t just a Philadelphia fighter — he was the epitome of what every kid who ever laced up a pair of gloves wanted to be.
Now that he’s gone, we look around and come to realize there’s not much we’ve done as a city on behalf of a man who has given us all so much.
And that, fellow fight fans, has got to change.
The mighty Joe Frazier gym still sits there on the corner of Broad and Glenwood, except now it’s all but abandoned, used as some sort of discount furniture warehouse.
Here’s what we do: First, restore the gym to its former glory. As much as the legendary Blue Horizon, or even the Uptown, Joe Frazier’s Cloverlay gym is a part of North Philadelphia history. Many of the game’s greats trained there, and many got their start there.
There’s just something special about a boxing gym, and this was one of the most special gyms in the country. The smell of sweat and rubbing alcohol, the sounds of the speed bag and someone skipping rope, and the dreams of young athletes determined to fight their way out of poverty and despair cannot be duplicated in some cookie cutter health club.
There are any number of present and former champions who could easily contribute a few coins to such a worthy cause, and they should be pressed into action.
Second, we rename Glenwood Avenue “Joe Frazier Way” and put up one of those historic markers to commemorate the spot where greatness once stood among us. Call your freshly elected City Council representative and demand it. Call the mayor. Call your favorite radio talk show host.
If we can give an imaginary Hollywood boxing hero a statue at the Art Museum, surely we can spare some glory for a man who was the real deal.
PHILADELPHIA — Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight champion who handed Muhammad Ali his first defeat yet had to live forever in his shadow, died Monday night after a brief final fight with liver cancer. He was 67.
The family issued a release confirming the boxer's death.
Frazier, who took on Ali in three momentous fights in the 1970s — including the epic "Thrilla in Manilla" — had been under home hospice care after being diagnosed just weeks ago with the cancer that took his life, a family friend said. Until then, Frazier had been doing regular autograph appearances, including one in Las Vegas in September.
Smokin' Joe was a small yet ferocious fighter who smothered his opponents with punches, including a devastating left hook he used to end many of his fights early. It was the left hook that dropped Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in the so-called "Fight of the Century."
Though he beat Ali in that fight, Frazier lost the final two and for many years was bitter about the role Ali forced him to play as his foil.
Frazier was diagnosed last month with the disease, his personal and business manager said. Leslie Wolff, who has been Frazier's manager for seven years, said the boxer had been in out and out of the hospital since early October and receiving hospice treatment the last week.
Frazier was the first man to beat Ali, knocking him down and taking a decision in the so-called Fight of the Century in 1971. He would go on to lose two more fights to Ali, including the epic "Thrilla in Manila" bout.
Frazier was bitter for many years about the way Ali treated him then. More recently, he said he had forgiven Ali for repeatedly taunting him.
While the "Fight of the Century" is celebrated in boxing lore, Ali and Frazier put on an even better show in their third fight, held in a sweltering arena in Manila as part of Ali's world tour of fights in 1975. Nearly blinded by Ali's punches, Frazier still wanted to go out for the 15th round of the fight but was held back by trainer Eddie Futch in a bout Ali would later say was the closest thing to death he could imagine.
Frazier won the heavyweight title in 1970 by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their fight at Madison Square Garden. Frazier defended it successfully four times before George Foreman knocked him down six times in the first two rounds to take the title from him in 1973.
Frazier would never be heavyweight champion again. -- (AP)
The city of Philadelphia and the sports world lost more than a great fighter when Joe Frazier passed away Monday night. Frazier, former heavyweight champion, who had some classic battles with Muhammad Ali, succumbed to liver cancer. He was 67 years old.
Frazier leaves behind quite a legacy. He was a champion fighter, but also a professional with whom the average person could identify in terms of his boxing style and personality. Frazier had a quick left hook that could knock you out in a second. He didn’t do anything fancy in the ring. He was where the rubber meets the road. Speaking of the road, if you saw the champ on the streets or anywhere in public he always had time to talk to the fans who supported him over the years. He was a people’s champion.
“Joe was the quintessential workman,” said Elmer Smith, former Philadelphia Daily News columnist and longtime boxing writer. “He was like the guy who carried the lunch pail and punched the clock compared to Muhammad Ali, who sort of worked in the executive suite.
“And for a lot of people, Joe was a guy who more closely represented them. He was a regular guy in some extraordinary situations with the way he acquitted himself. He was sort of an example of the way we see ourselves. For every regular guy who found himself in extraordinary situations, it was the way we always dreamed of acting if we ever got in front or became a star. He was like a bit player who stole the scene from a star.
“I think one of the things that made him as popular, he was that kind of everyman. He had an incredible heart. He represented that kind of work ethic that a lot of us pride ourselves in that we actually practiced it or not. It’s the way we like to see ourselves. A lot of people saw Joe Frazier in a way they would like to see themselves.”
A lot of people saw Frazier’s great fights over the years. He clashed with Ali in three memorable fights in the 1970s — including the famous “Thrilla in Manila,” after which Ali said that bout brought him “as close to dying as I’ve ever come” because Frazier hit so hard. The man they called “Smokin’ Joe” dropped Ali in the 15th round at Madison Square Garden in 1971 to seal a win in what was known as the ‘Fight of the Century.’ Although he beat Ali that night, Frazier lost their final two fights and for many years was bitter about the role Ali forced him to play as his foil.
Frazier was bitter for many years about the way Ali treated him then. More recently, he said he had forgiven Ali for repeatedly taunting him. Although the “Fight of the Century” is celebrated as one of the all-time great fights, Frazier put on an even better show in their third fight, held in a sweltering arena in Manila as part of Ali’s world tour of fights in 1975. Nearly blinded by Ali’s punches, Frazier still wanted to go out for the 15th round, but was held back by trainer Eddie Futch.
razier won the heavyweight title in 1970 by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their fight at Madison Square Garden. Fhe defended it successfully four times before George Foreman knocked him down six times in the first two rounds to take the title from him in 1973.
Bernard Hopkins, Philadelphia’s light heavyweight world champion, gave his thoughts on Frazier’s boxing exploits, which included those major fights with Ali. Hopkins remembers his boxing career extremely well.
“Ali and Joe Frazier’s rivalry is the king of all rivalries,” Hopkins said in a statement. “You cannot mention Ali’s name without Frazier, and you cannot mention Frazier without Ali. Their three fights were the three most exciting fights of the century. Joe is a person who will never be imitated or emulated. His legacy in boxing will never be duplicated, especially during his era. There will be only one Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
“To be a fighter with a ring name such as ‘Smokin’, you’re taking a big risk, because you must be smokin’ with that famous left hook, and he was. His legacy in the city of Philadelphia is up there with the greats, maybe even surpassing the 76ers’ Dr. J (Julius Erving).
“He had great discipline and a strong will to win. Joe Frazier is an icon, and he will always be remembered that way. My condolences to the entire Frazier family. It’s a very sad day in Philadelphia and all over the world.”
Frazier’s boxing career was quite impressive before he fought Ali, Foreman and Ellis. In 1964, he replaced injured heavyweight Buster Mathis in the Olympics. Frazier stepped in and won a gold medal for the United States. Ironically, Mathis was one of the fighters Frazier lost to during his amateur years. Prior to the Olympics, he was a three-time Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight champion.
After the Olympics, he turned professional and developed his boxing skills under the tutelage of the late trainer Yancey “Yank” Durham. Frazier’s first victory as a pro was a TKO over Woody Goss in the first round. He battled a number of heavyweights throughout his career such as Jerry Quarry, Joe Bugner, Oscar Bonavena and George Chuvalo. He fought from 1965 to 1981. He compiled a 32-4-1 record with 27 knockouts, holding the heavyweight title from 1970-73.
After Frazier’s boxing career concluded, he really showed his talents and personality in the entertainment arena. The singing group Joe Frazier and the Knockouts performed in several clubs. Barbara St. Lee was one of the background singers.
“I was part of Joe Frazier’s singing group,” St. Lee said. “I worked along with the Knockouts during the time that he was with them. I was the opening act. After the Knockouts left, they were based out of New York. Fonzi Thornton was one of the main handlers of the Knockouts.
“After that, I continued to work with Joe Frazier as his background vocalist. I remember a really special occasion when he and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde (Joe’s daughter) sang together. That was special. But I know Joe loved singing. He had to convince the public that this was something he really loved to do. He used to sing songs like ‘Mustang Sally,’ ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘My Way.’ His favorite song was ‘My Way’ because he did it his way.”
That wasn’t the only thing Frazier did in retirement. He also had Joe Frazier’s Gym at Broad and Glenwood in North Philadelphia for many years. His son, Marvis Frazier trained at the legendary gym, which was later sold and is now a furniture store. Marvis had a solid boxing career, posting a 19-2 record. Bill Vargus, former sportscaster for Fox TV Channel 29 and longtime boxing reporter, remembers how Joe developed Marvis into a fighter who got into the ring with former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.
“You look at the amazing relationship he had with Marvis,” Vargus said. “Marvis wasn’t the fighter that Joe was, but Marvis always talks about how after he got knocked out in the first round by Larry Holmes, he was so distraught because he had thought he let his father down. Joe hugged him. He told him that he loved him. They always had this great relationship and Marvis will continue to do good work in the community.”
Frazier has been a big part of the Philadelphia community for many years. He was born in Beaufort, S.C., one of 13 children born to Rubin and Dolly Frazier. However, Philly has always been the place he’s called home.
“Joe Frazier was the quintessential Philadelphia boxer,” said Mayor Michael Nutter in a statement. “He represented the heart and soul of boxing in our great city. In the ring and in the neighborhoods, he carried himself with dignity and courage. He was a true ambassador for our city. I enjoyed him as a fighter, and I really liked him as a person. The entire city mourns his passing, and we keep him and his family in our prayers.”
Frazier has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He received a special award this summer. The National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force honored him with the Sam Lacy Pioneer Award at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. There were more than 200 people at the event, part of the 2011 NABJ Convention in Philadelphia.
The NABJ Sports Task Force, composed of more than 100 sports journalists from around the country, recognized him for his groundbreaking efforts and boxing achievements. The awards ceremony was one of the signature events at the convention.
It was a huge award for an outstanding person.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Move over, Rocky. Make way for Smokin' Joe.
The mayor of Philadelphia kicked off a campaign Wednesday to raise money for a statue of hometown boxing great Joe Frazier, a tribute he called "long overdue."
Joined by members of Frazier's family, Mayor Michael Nutter praised the onetime heavyweight champion as a fearless, determined fighter and "a good human being" who gave back to the community. Frazier died last year of liver cancer at age 67.
"Joe Frazier fought as a Philadelphian, and now it's our turn to fight for Joe's memory by erecting a statue that captures his indomitable spirit," Nutter said.
The $150,000 fundraising goal includes money for maintenance of the memorial, which Nutter hopes to unveil by the end of 2013.
"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.
On Wednesday, his eldest daughter, Renae Frazier-Martin, spoke proudly of her father and his athletic accomplishments, noting his 1964 Olympic gold medal and professional record of 34-2-1, with 27 knockouts.
"To the world, he was 'Smokin' Joe' Frazier ..." Frazier-Martin said. "To the city of Philadelphia, he was just Joe. He lived here, he worked here, he built here, he went to church here, he taught here, he gave here and — don't forget — he partied here, too."
The Frazier memorial 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.
Frazier's statue will be placed at Xfinity Live, an entertainment complex near Philadelphia's three sports stadiums. The property lies in the footprint of the Spectrum, an arena where Frazier fought.
Jeff Snyder, development director for the complex, announced a $25,000 corporate donation Wednesday to kick-start the collections. All contributions will be managed by the city's nonprofit organization, The Fund for Philadelphia.
Separately, preservationists are seeking to save Frazier's former gym, which served as his training site and a neighborhood anchor in north Philadelphia. Frazier sold the building in 2008. -- (AP)
Boxing great Muhammad Ali, known for his unabashed self-confidence inside and outside the ring as well as his outspokenness on social and humanitarian causes, is the recipient of the 2012 Liberty Medal.
Ali, 70, will receive the medal in a ceremony on Sept. 13 in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. The three-time world heavyweight champion was not in attendance for Thursday's announcement.
Previous recipients of the Liberty Medal, which was established in 1988 to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, include rock singer and human rights activist Bono, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President Jimmy Carter. Six winners have subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution — freedom, self-governance, equality and empowerment — and helping to spread them across the globe," said former President Bill Clinton, chairman of the National Constitution Center, an institution dedicated to increasing public understanding of the Constitution and the ideas and values it represents.
Liberty Medal sponsors and partners said Ali's lifelong courage and conviction exemplify the qualities that the award was established to honor, from his outspoken advocacy for civil and religious freedom to his philanthropy, social activism and humanitarian efforts.
"Muhammad Ali symbolizes all that makes America great, while pushing us as a people and as a nation to be better," said National Constitution Center president and chief executive officer David Eisner. "Each big fight of his life has inspired a new chapter of civic action."
The fast-talking, boisterous fighter who referred to himself as "the greatest" was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942. He took up boxing at age 12 and flourished in the ring, becoming a top amateur and Olympic gold medalist.
Ali won the heavyweight title in 1964, defeating the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Soon after, Ali — who was raised in a Baptist family — announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name.
While in his prime, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967 for refusing to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs. The decision resulted in a draft-evasion conviction and spurred a long legal fight that ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
Three years after his retirement from boxing in 1981, Ali announced he had Parkinson's disease, a degenerative brain condition that some researchers believe may be brought on by repeated blows to the head. Despite the diagnosis, he devoted himself to traveling the world on humanitarian missions bringing food and medical supplies to developing nations throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America and Asia. He also continues to work at home in the U.S. to raise funds for organizations including the Special Olympics and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center in Phoenix.
In 2005, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. -- (AP)
“Work is the only meaning I’ve ever known. Like the man in the song says, I just gotta keep on keepin’ on.” Joe Frazier
Years ago in a Philadelphia slaughterhouse, an aspiring young boxer trained in the early mornings by punching sides of beef. He would run up and down the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
The world associates these images with a fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa, but they were part of the fascinating life of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who died earlier this month at the age of 67.
In many ways, the appropriation of Frazier’s early training days is emblematic of how, even at the height of his career, he was overshadowed by the slicker, brasher media favorite, Muhammad Ali.
Although their animosity defined an era of boxing, Frazier boycotted the 1967 heavyweight elimination tournament to find a successor to Ali, and he personally petitioned President Richard M. Nixon to have Ali’s license reinstated. While Ali was banned from boxing, Frazier lent him money to pay his bills. “I’ve never fought anyone with a will so strong,” Ali would say of Frazier.
I’ve always been an Ali fan myself, but the only time I ever rooted against Frazier was when he fought Ali. Frazier, in comparison, was a man of few words, who proved himself with hard work and action in the ring. He let his boxing speak for him.
In many ways, Frazier’s very life, more than anything he said, defined the struggle of Black America. He was self-taught and self-reliant. He rose from crushing poverty in Jim Crow-era South Carolina, one of 14 children born to struggling sharecroppers. He worked the fields from the age of 7 until he, like so many who are part of the Great Migrations of the 20th century, hopped a Greyhound bus to New York City before making his way to Philadelphia.
After he retired from boxing, Joe Frazier’s Gym became an important part of the Philadelphia neighborhood. Though it’s no longer a training facility, fans and former students flocked to the building upon learning of Frazier’s death. It had been a safe haven for young people, a center of the community. In contrast to the violence and sometimes hopelessness of the neighborhood streets outside, young people learned discipline and hard work, and their lives were changed forever, thanks to Smokin’ Joe. — (NNPA)
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.