Boxing fans pay tribute to Joe Frazier at Philadelphia arena

A Boxing Legend lies “in state” at the arena where the Flyers and 76ers play.  It’s the chance for people to pay respects to Joe Frazier before a more private funeral on Monday.

On the floor in the middle of the Wells Fargo Center sits the closed coffin of Joe Frazier, his trademark cowboy hat atop the casket.  He’s surrounded by a few simple floral arrangements, a picture of the fighter in a classic boxing pose and two uniformed attendants.

A steady stream of fans walk by, including Jose Esterol, who remembers meeting Frazier four decades ago when he was in elementary school.

“We got word that he might sign to fight Ali, and we were like ‘wow, the champion is coming to our school, that’s like the president coming, the Pope coming,'” said Esterol.  “Everybody knows who those three were.”

Maurell Jenkins says it’s time more people respected the man who made Philadelphia his home and brought the Heavyweight Boxing Title to town.

“I had to pay my respects to the champ,” said Jenkins.  “He was the first man to beat Muhammad Ali, hopefully he can get a statue now Rocky got one now Joe Frazier should have a statue.  It is only right, everybody in Philadelphia should be here.”

Lester Gorham, who says he was proud to call the man known as Smokin’ Joe his friend, agrees.

“Was he underrated?  You could see it,” said Gorham.  “I mean that speaks for itself and then you hear right now all of a sudden everyone wants to build him up, they should have done that while he was alive.  He was a product of Philadelphia, he was Philadelphia.”

Muhammad Ali is scheduled to attend the funeral Monday at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cheltenham.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.