joe frazier

Heart of a Champion © 2020 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Ernel Martinez, 13th Street and Allegheny Avenue. — Submitted Photo/Steve Weinik

The 50th anniversary of the “Fight of the Century” was a big time boxing match between two of the greatest fighters of all time Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Frazier defeated Ali in a legendary fight that took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 8, 1971, in an exciting 15-round unanimous decision, claiming victory to the WBC/WBA Heavyweight Championship.

Fast forward 50 years later, on Monday, March 8, Mural Arts Philadelphia dedicated a new mural to honor Frazier, the former Philadelphia boxing champion. At the ceremony, Frazier’s family and other VIPs dedicated “Heart of a Champion: Tribute to Smokin’ Joe Frazier.” The mural is located at 1302 W. Allegheny Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Mural Arts artist Ernel Martinez worked with the Frazier family and current boxers at the Athletic Recreation Center to create a design that highlights the spirit and boxing style of the Philadelphia boxing legend.

Weatta Frazier Collins, CEO, The Legacy Exists Joe Frazier Scholarship Fund, and daughter of Joe Frazier, was really excited about the mural of her father who has a special place in Philadelphia sports and boxing history.

“The Mural Arts Department was working for some time now to honor my father,” Frazier Collins said. “I’m grateful for that. And it’s finally happened. We’re so blessed to be able to have the mural there. because Joe Frazier did a lot.

“He was the first underdog in Philadelphia even before the [Philadelphia] Eagles were. He was a man that kind of put sports on the map as an individual. Of course, you had your Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers. But you had one guy that brought Philadelphia like here you go. Philadelphia is a sports town. We’re honored that they have put this mural up.”

Frazier was the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion from 1970 to 1973. He lived in North Philadelphia where he owned and managed Joe Frazier’s Gym, which remains at 2917 North Broad Street, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

He was known for training at his gym and on the Boxers’ Trail in Fairmount Park, where exactly 50 years ago, Ali sought him out to challenge him to the “Fight of the Century,” which he won. After he retired in 1975, Frazier opened the gym to the public and trained young fighters in the community. Frazier died on Nov. 7, 2011.

Heart of a Champion is sponsored by the City of Philadelphia. Partners of this project were Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, The Legacy Exists Joe Frazier Scholarship Fund, Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center, Kids Korner Klub, North Central Philadelphia Community Development Corporation, Athletic Recreation Center, Mander Playground and Recreation Center, and Winchester Recreation Center.

For more than 30 years, Mural Arts has united artists and communities through a collaborative and equitable process, creating nearly 4,000 artworks that have transformed public spaces and individual lives.

In addition to the mural, there was a statue unveiling earlier in the day there was an unveiling of a new 9-foot-tall, 1,600-pound statue on the 50th anniversary of the legendary Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight at Joe Hand Gym in Feasterville, PA. For more information, on the online silent auction to raise funds for the Joe Frazier Scholarship Fund go to www.memorabiliaforcharities.com/thelgeacyexists.

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