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.
BEAUFORT, S.C. — Long before he became Smokin' Joe, the future heavyweight champion was known in his South Carolina hometown as "Billy Boy" — a stocky farmer's son who honed his devastating left hook on a punching bag made from a flour sack stuffed with corn cobs, rags and Spanish moss.
Joe Frazier would make Philadelphia his adopted home, but his roots ran deep in the sandy soil of the South Carolina coast where he was born in 1944. More than 250 family members and friends gathered Wednesday for a church memorial service near his hometown of Beaufort.
"He was Joe Frazier to the world, but he was our Uncle Billy," said Dannette Frazier, one of about a dozen of Frazier's nieces and nephews who still live near the 10-acre farm where the boxer was raised.
Frazier died Nov. 7 from cancer at age 67.
The South Carolina service had none of the celebrity trappings of Frazier's funeral Monday in Philadelphia, where Jesse Jackson delivered the eulogy to a congregation including Muhammad Ali, former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes and promoter Don King.
Also absent from the service at Bethesda Christian Fellowship on St. Helena Island was Frazier's body. In place of his casket, two large portraits of Frazier stood at the church altar — one of him wearing the Olympic gold medal he won in 1964; the other taken with his massive heavyweight champion belt slung over his shoulder.
"I was really hoping to bring my father with me today," Frazier's oldest daughter, Jacqui Frazier Lyde of Philadelphia, told the congregation. "I was really trying to make sure you had an opportunity to see his face."
Lyde said her father was being buried in a blue suit and patent leather shoes. "He looked like one of God's men."
Billy Joe Frazier spent his first 15 years in Beaufort on a farm where his parents grew corn, watermelon and okra. Frazier's father was proud that he was not a sharecropper. He owned his land.
By age 6, Frazier was in the fields helping his brothers and sisters pick tomatoes and other crops. He began driving his father's pickup truck when he was 7. His mother would later recall Frazier started to fight around the age of 9.
Frazier's father encouraged the brawling, saying he could grow up to be the next Joe Louis, and Frazier started training with whatever materials he had at hand. The fighter later said he gave daily beatings to his homemade punching bag for several years.
Frazier was expelled from school in the ninth-grade when he fought a white student for calling his mother names. He got a job working construction that helped him build his body and earn enough money to leave the South. In 1959, at age 15, Frazier bought a ticket and boarded a bus to New York to begin training as a boxer in earnest.
"I left the South as soon as I found out about the North," Frazier later told a biographer.
But he made frequent trips back to South Carolina, where there's a road named after him in his hometown.
"When he came home we knew he never forgot Beaufort," said his niece, Dannette Frazier. "He'd spend three or four days here because he had to visit everybody."
At the church service, Dannette Frazier recalled how her Uncle Billy rushed home to Beaufort a couple of years ago when her mother, one of the boxer's older sisters, died.
She laughed at the memory of how Frazier drove the 700 miles from Philly to Beaufort, even though "he was legally blind."
Frazier arrived safely nonetheless.
"He said, 'It was easy. I just looked at the tail lights in front of me,'" Dannette Frazier said. "That's the loving uncle we knew." -- (AP)
Bernard Hopkins changed his tune after his swan song. He turned back the clock on Father Time.
And he has aged gracefully if grace is defined by pummeling fighters 15-plus years younger than boxing's grayest graybeard.
Long the master of pre-fight head games, Hopkins has turned to cheek-and-chin games for his latest bout, and first since winning the WBC light heavyweight championship, becoming the oldest fighter to win a major world championship.
At 46, Hopkins won't duck from the changing hair color on his face.
Tinged with more than a touch of gray, he intends to beat Chad Dawson by a whisker. Well, many whiskers.
So long, "Executioner." Hello, "Silver Fox."
"I want to look like his father," Hopkins said. "I could be his father. It's appropriate for me to look gray and have gray. If you do the math, he could be my son. I'm 46, he's 29, I had him early, it all fits into the scheme of the professor versus the good student who wants to be a great student."
Hopkins has fought off contenders and kids for most of his career while becoming one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of his generation.
For most of the last decade, Hopkins has been defined by his age. How does he still do it? Why? The oldest fighter to box there, achieve that. Age has been more than a number for Hopkins, the Philadelphia native, it's been the one constant that drives the curiosity factor in all of his bouts.
For now, forget 46.
Hopkins (52-5-2) should be defined as a champion.
Hopkins became the oldest fighter to win a major world championship, taking the WBC light heavyweight title May 21 from Jean Pascal at the age of 46.
He dethroned George Foreman as the oldest boxer to win a world title when he beat Pascal. Foreman was 45 years, 10 months when he knocked out heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994. Hopkins was 46 years, four months and six days in his bout with Pascal.
Boxing's ageless wonder will try to defy history again when he defends the title against Dawson (30-1) Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"It's going to stay here in Philadelphia," Hopkins said, "around my waist where it belongs."
Dawson lost the light heavyweight championship to Pascal before beating Adrian Diaconu in May to earn another title shot.
Win or lose, Dawson has years of fighting ahead of him.
Time might finally be running out on the glib Hopkins. Each workout for his next big bout at his regular Philadelphia gym seems like it could be the last before retirement. Yes, his hair has changed, but his devotion to a straightedge lifestyle that bans alcohol and late nights; regular training; and a singular focus on his next fight has remained as steel-willed as ever.
Hopkins has stopped predicting when he'll call it a career, though he vowed he won't be boxing at 50.
"I can't think about winning and think about retiring at the same time," he said. "That's very counterproductive. So I figure that instead of worrying about 'what if's,' worry about where I'm at now."
His trainer, Nazim Richardson, believes Hopkins has already built a Hall of Fame career as the sport’s greatest middleweight. Beat Dawson, and Hopkins could go down as the greatest lightest heavyweight.
"I just hope these jokers appreciate this dude and I don't think they do," Richardson said.
Hopkins-Dawson headlines a card ripped straight from the headlines of Ripley's Believe It or Not! The franchise that cashes in on the oddities and the bizarre from all walks of life signed up as a sponsor for the bout. Ripley's Believe It or Not! created a Hopkins figure that will soon be displayed at a Ripley Odditorium. Hopkins posed twice for the figure, which will be unveiled this week in Los Angeles, and was created in honor of him becoming boxing's oldest champ.
"I've seen a lot of things I didn't think was true," said Hopkins of his Ripley's visit, "like a two-headed cow. It was freaky stuff."
On the undercard, ex-con and Arthur Ashe Courage award for strength and conviction Dewey Bozella fights Larry Hopkins.
Bozella served 26 years for a murder he did not commit before the conviction was overturned in 2009. He boxed in prison and dreamed of turning pro for one fight if he ever got out. Hopkins, who served five years in Pennsylvania state prison, heard the story and arranged a spot for Bozella on the card.
"You can't laugh at that type of spirit," Hopkins said.
Hopkins has plenty of spirit of his own.
Less than four months from turning 47, Hopkins boasts he feels like he did at 36. That was 10 years ago and around the time he beat Felix Trinidad in what was the fight of his career.
His native city could use the morale boost from a Hopkins victory. The Philadelphia Phillies lost in the NL division series and the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 1-4 start. Both teams had championship expectations only a month ago.
Hopkins expects to hold on to his championship well past Saturday.
If not, then this time, it might really be it for Hopkins.
"I think everybody should just enjoy me while I'm here," he said. "because nothing lasts forever." — (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — Bernard Hopkins has an appeal planned over a controversial call and rehabilitation ahead for a significant shoulder injury.
When those issues are settled, Hopkins will have a new priority at the top of his list.
Finding his next opponent.
The 46-year-old Hopkins told The Associated Press on Monday he will not retire because of his injured left shoulder and the disputed call that cost him his WBC light heavyweight championship.
"I am going to fight again because I'm still the champion," he said. "I believe I will be the champion once the proper channels are being taken."
Hopkins watched replays of his fight against Chad Dawson and still can't believe the bizarre fashion in which he lost the title on Saturday night. He was stopped for the first time in a 23-year career when Dawson dumped him to the canvas late in the second round. No punch, more of a push. Referee Pat Russell ruled there was no foul and the belt was awarded to Dawson via TKO.
The oldest fighter to win a major championship, Hopkins (52-6-2) dislocated the joint connecting his collarbone and shoulder blade. He was scheduled for an MRI Monday on the injured left shoulder. Hopkins needs rehab no matter the outcome — but his next fight could be deep into next year if a severe tear or worse is revealed.
"My career will not end, and has no reason to end, based on Saturday night," Hopkins said. "For what?"
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer says the result will be appealed to the California State Athletic Commission either Monday or Tuesday. He will ask the WBC and Ring Magazine to continue to recognize Hopkins as the champion.
"It's very clear Chad lifted his legs," Schaefer said.
Even by boxing's often outrageous conduct, there's no doubt the finish at the Staples Center was as implausible as they come. Hopkins leaned over the crouching Dawson after throwing an overhand right, and Dawson lifted Hopkins off his feet by standing up, dumping him onto the canvas.
Hopkins awkwardly landed on his back and instantly clutched his left shoulder in pain, seemingly unable to continue.
Hopkins demanded a foul and a no-contest result.
Russell ruled against him and Hopkins' brief championship reign was over.
Among various descriptions of the incident, Hopkins said he "felt like I was tackled by a football player," and "he threw me like a rag doll."
Raggedy Ann and The Executioner will not be found on a toy shelf near you.
"I think the referee got caught up in the moment and didn't know what to do," Hopkins said. "I don't want to sound like I'm whining. The bottom line is, the referee either doesn't know the rules or dropped the ball."
While trash talk before a fight is the norm, there were no signs of the usual post-fight displays of respect. Dawson said after the debacle he knew Hopkins didn't want to fight him. He called Hopkins "a weak, physically and mentally minded person. He has no power."
Hopkins didn't back down on Monday, saying Dawson purposely threw him down to avoid a defeat.
"Of course you don't want to fight me," Hopkins said. "Of course you know I'm a slow starter and I'll figure you out and I'll take you apart. He knew that time was coming."
Hopkins called for instant replay in boxing to help avoid in the future these types of tough calls.
"Boxing is so outdated," he said. "We're living by the rules and technologies of the day of 1929. 1929! They do it in football and they make the right call."
Hopkins now has to wait out the appeals process for his definition of the right call to be made. No matter the outcome, Hopkins said he'll back, training at his Philadelphia gym and ready to prove he's not finished long past the expiration date of most star athletes.
"I'm not going to give this guy the opportunity to have this be the last highlights of a storied career," Hopkins said. -- (AP)
LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather Jr. won the fight with a questionable — if legal — pair of punches that Victor Ortiz never saw coming. He followed it by berating an 80-year-old announcer in the ring and demanding he be fired.
Later on he would insinuate that the only way Manny Pacquiao keeps winning is that he’s juiced.
All in a night’s work for boxing’s bad boy, and a profitable one at that. Probably not as profitable as Mayweather claims, but a huge payday without doubt.
He sells because people buy pay-per-views to either cheer him on or yell at the big screen in hopes he will lose. On Saturday night he won for the 42nd straight time, and he wasn’t about to offer up apologies for how it was done.
“Once we touch gloves it’s fight time,” Mayweather said. “It’s open season.”
Mayweather came back from a 16-month layoff to stop a fighter 10 years younger than him, which by itself wasn’t much of a surprise. He was a 5-1 favorite to use his speed and experience against an opponent who was in a megafight for the first time.
The way he did it, though, was the story of the night at the MGM Grand hotel arena.
Those who love Mayweather will say he exploited a mistake by the relatively inexperienced Ortiz. Those who hate him will claim he’s a dirty fighter who hit Ortiz when he wasn’t expecting it.
Mayweather himself didn’t really seem to care either way.
“Eventually he was going to get knocked out anyway,” Mayweather said. “What comes around goes around. Things happen in this sport. It’s protect yourself at all times.”
If Mayweather needed an excuse, it may have been because he was mad. A few moments earlier Ortiz deliberately head butted him in the corner, a move that cost Ortiz a point on the judges’ scorecards.
He apologized to Mayweather, even giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Another brief hug followed in the center of the ring as the referee seemed to indicate that the two fighters continue.
While Ortiz looked off to the side, his hands down, Mayweather hit him with a left hook and a right that put him on the canvas. Ortiz struggled to get up before referee Joe Cortez counted him out at 2:59 of the fourth round.
“I was looking at Joe and he said ‘break’ or something and I’m like, huh?” Ortiz said. “Whatever. Bottom line is I had fun. It was fun.”
If Ortiz was upbeat for a fighter who was stopped early in his biggest fight, he had reason to be. He made $2.5 million, sustained no serious injuries, and did nothing to damage his reputation as a fighter who either drops the guy across the ring from him or is dropped himself.
Not beating Mayweather won’t derail his career. After all, 41 fighters before him over the past 16 years have failed to do the same thing.
“I made some mistakes tonight and I apologized to the public for it,” Ortiz said. “But I definitely want a rematch.”
That’s not likely, if only because it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense. And Mayweather, who was guaranteed $25 million, didn’t earn his nickname of “Money” without always thinking about the bottom line.
That may be a reason the Pacquiao fight never gets made. No reason for Mayweather to risk his unbeaten record for a big payday when his paydays are already plenty big.
“I don’t need Pacquiao,” Mayweather said after the fight. “Every time Floyd Mayweather goes out there he’s going to make $70 million, period.”
If Mayweather deserves criticism it’s probably not for the two punches that ended the fight prematurely. He won the first three rounds anyway and appeared well on his way to dominating Ortiz, and he certainly wasn’t happy about being head butted intentionally just before the sudden knockout.
But he didn’t need to berate HBO’s Larry Merchant in the post-fight interview in the ring, which the 80-year-old responded to by saying he would beat up Mayweather himself if he was 50 years younger. And he didn’t need to press his claim that Pacquiao uses steroids when there is no evidence to indicate Pacquiao does anything other than train well and fight even better.
That’s the world of Money May, though, where reality sometimes mirrors what happens in the HBO “24/7” reality series that sparked Mayweather’s lucrative pay-per-view career. The 34-year-old does things on his own terms. While he has gotten in trouble outside the ring because of that, he reigns unbeaten in the place where he is most comfortable.
“Once you get me in the square circle, that’s my home,” Mayweather said.
There’s still an outside chance Mayweather and Pacquiao will fight next May, assuming Pacquiao beats Juan Manuel Marquez in November. Pacquiao’s camp has already said he will agree to Mayweather’s demand for unlimited drug testing, though Mayweather still doesn’t seem terribly interested in fighting Pacquiao.
“All Pacquiao is doing is fighting my leftovers. That boy doesn’t want to fight,” Mayweather said. “Doesn’t matter. Whoever you put in front of me, they can’t beat me. They can’t beat me.” — (AP)
Tim Dahlberg can be reached at http://twitter.com/timdahlberg.
It was just in May when Mayor Michael Nutter honored Bernard Hopkins as the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title right next to the Rocky statue at the Art Museum. At 46 years old, Hopkins doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet.
Hopkins will be back in the ring fighting 29-year-old Chad Dawson in a 12-round bout for his WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight world championship titles on October 15 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles (9 p.m.) The fight will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View.
Hopkins, nicknamed “The Executioner,” defeated Jean Pascal in a rematch in May, earning him the light heavyweight championship while landing a huge spot in boxing history. He has amazed so many people in his hometown and around the world by accomplishing more after the age of 40 than most athletes in their careers. Hopkins, who grew up in North Philadelphia, has an impressive record (52-5-2, 32 KOs.) He was the middleweight champion for 10 years, putting together a record 20 successful title defenses of that crown.
Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) has been recognized as one of the top fighters in the sport for several years. He has an impressive 7-1 mark in world title fights. Dawson will step into the ring against a future hall of famer who doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
“I chose to continue to fight and defend what I worked so hard to get,” Hopkins said. “So why not get all of the benefits of what I’ve been doing for 20-something years and then walk away when it’s time?
“I think it will come down to who is the better fighter. The better fighter, the better person, the better strategist and who wants it the most. It really would be gratifying to me and happy for me to sit back in my 60s and hear commentators say, “This guy is four fights away from beating Bernard Hopkins’ record.”
Hopkins said he expects Dawson to throw a lot of punches throughout the fight, but added that it’s not how many you can, but how many you can land.
“I’m coming in there with an aggressive game, but a smart game,” Hopkins said. “If people think that the last two fights of my career were the old Bernard Hopkins from the Blue Horizon to Atlantic City days in the early 90s, then I’m saying that they should watch this fight.”
When the news broke over the weekend about former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier having liver cancer and being in hospice care, it really hit the sports world extremely hard. “Smokin’ Joe” is regarded by many as one of the greatest boxers to ever live, compiling a 32-4-1 record with 27 knockouts, and holding the heavyweight title from 1970 to 1973.
Everybody knows Frazier had some classic fights with Muhammad Ali. Frazier and Ali fought three times, with Ali winning two of those fights. Of course, the biggest one was the “Thrilla in Manila,” where Ali said that bout brought him “as close to dying as I’ve ever come,” because Frazier was one of the hardest hitters to ever put on a pair of boxing gloves.
Frazier, 67, is a legend. He’s also a trailblazer. That’s why the National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force honored him with the Sam Lacy Pioneer Award at the Pennsylvania Convention Center this summer. There were more than 200 people at the event, part of the 2011 NABJ Convention hosted in Philadelphia.
The NABJ Sports Task Force, which is comprised 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 big time award for a great man. The award was well-deserved for one of the biggest stars in sports. Moreover, it was just four months ago. Frazier was very articulate at the ceremony and very appreciative. It’s still hard to believe that he’s in a battle for his life now.
“He’s a role model,” said Leslie Wolff, Frazier’s business manager. “He always said the keys to success in life are determination, focus and the willingness to sacrifice. He’s a classic gentleman. There’s no ego. Joe is one of a kind, but what’s amazing is, he and Ali are the only athletes that are known in 193 countries and the world. He’s one of five athletes who I know has a social, political and emotional heritage — Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson Jesse Owens, he and Ali. He’s in a very special class. The first fight with Ali was the largest single sporting event in the world. He’s bigger than life, but always been down to earth.”
After the ceremony, we had a chance to talk about some of his great fights. He talked about his family. He stayed around and spoke to all the people at the event. Frazier had time for everybody. That means a lot, particularly to people who don’t normally get to meet a person of his stature.
Frazier needs help now. He’s always been a fighter. Frazier has never been one to throw in the towel. Wolff knows this is another battle for one of boxing’s greatest fighters.
“I’m not giving up,” Wolff said. “We’re going to look for some kind of miracle out there. We just have to find it. We’re asking everybody to pray. I’m a great believer in the power of prayer.”