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Joe Frazier gave back to the Philadelphia community, but did the city give back to him?


Editor's note: This piece was written prior to the death of Joe Frazier Monday night. The staff at Philly2Philly sends our sincerest condolences to his family at this truly difficult time. Rest in peace, Smokin' Joe.

The Delaware Valley received some very sad news Saturday afternoon that former heavyweight champion and Philadelphia resident 'Smokin' Joe' Frazier  is battling for his life and is under hospice care, suffering from liver cancer.
Rumors of Frazier’s health started several weeks ago when he failed to show for the screening of “Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears,”  the documentary which he starred in that premiered at the Philadelphia Film Festival.Joe Frazier photo: supersport.com
The film begins with Frazier in his now-closed gym (more on that later). At times, Frazier’s speech suffers, and it is clear that the effects of the boxing ring have indeed taken its toll on him. Nonetheless, it is not to the point where he is unintelligible. He now walks with a cane, but he still maintains a sense of humor despite the recent ongoings involving his legendary gym, which had opened its doors to thousands of boxers before it was sold several years ago.

Unfortunately, Joe Frazier's Gym was sold more out of necessity than by choice. Truth be told, Frazier had fallen upon hard times after a combination of some mismanagement, questionable business dealings, and (by his own admission) his own failure to market himself properly. Moreover, Frazier's gym was reportedly known to be tax delinquent. 

Nobody knows the true story, but clearly, Frazier could have used some help from somebody. Which makes me wonder whether the city of Philadelphia tried to step in to help the boxing legend in some way, shape or form. Maybe they held his money issues over his head. Or maybe it's someting deeper.

Frazier came to Philadelphia by choice, arriving from (at the time) the racial tensions of South Carolina over 40 years ago and never leaving. The fact that Frazier isn't recognized in this city the way he should be is upsetting. After all, this isn’t just a guy who fought some amateur fights and never boxed again. He was the first boxer to beat Muhammad Ali  for God’s sake!  His lifetime record is 32-4-1. And oh yeah, he won the Olympic Boxing Gold Medal in 1964!


For a man so generous in nature as Frazier is known to be, it boggles the mind as to why Philadelphia did not use one of the greatest heavyweights of all time who lives RIGHT in the city as an ambassador. It’s kind of sad when the city puts up a statue of a fictional character like Rocky, but never considered one of a true living former heavyweight champion who loved this city the way Frazier did.

Although his current manager Les Wolff said at the film screening several weeks ago that a Frazier statue is finally being considered, let’s hope it doesn’t take something tragic for the city of Philadelphia to realize how much of a champion Joe Frazier is- in and out of the ring.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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