Joe Frazier ‘was into’ statue concept that Mayor Nutter is considering

Why is there a statue of the fictional Rocky Balboa near the Philadelphia Museum of Art but not one of non-fictional Smokin’ Joe Frazier anywhere in his adopted hometown?

There have been efforts through the years, and it came up numerous times since his Nov. 7 death including from the pulpit at Monday’s “Homegoing Ceremony.” The crowd of more than 3,000 people gave a standing ovation of applause and cheers as the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke of the irony.

 

“Rocky’s fists are frozen in stone. Joe’s fists were smokin,'” he said. “Rocky never faced [Muhammad] Ali or [Larry] Holmes or [Ken] Norton or [George] Foreman. Rocky never tasted his own blood. Joe Frazier deserves a statue in downtown Philadelphia. Tell them. Tell them!”

Sylvester Stallone’s son Michael also implored the city of Philadelphia to “write a check to get a Joe Frazier statue built.”

One has been in the works under the efforts of sculptor Christopher Collins, his brother John, Frazier’s manager Les Wolff, former Gov. Ed Rendell, attorney and family friend George Burrell and Joe McLaughlin, director for the Institute of Public Affairs at Temple University and former deputy mayor.

“My brother and I started a proposal and doing sketches over two years ago,” Collins said on Tuesday. They showed Frazier the sketches and “he was into it.”

According to a spokesperson at Rendell’s office, the former governor said there will be an announcement made about the statue and its status. Rendell said he does not know when the announcement will take place but that it will be “soon.”

In terms of Mayor Michael Nutter finalizing the details of the project, McLaughlin said, “What I think he’s interested in is a well thought out memorial to Joe Frazier. I think he wants to hear more about the proposal from the Collins’.”

Echoing what the mayor said at the Frazier memorial at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald said Tuesday that the mayor is “extremely interested in having some kind of memorial created, whether that’s a statue or something else.”

Initially, when the idea was brought to Rendell’s office, the Collins brothers, Wolff and McLaughlin proposed a 7-foot-tall sculpture of Frazier throwing a left hook in a boxing ring, making it possible for fans to climb in and pose. In June, they thought it might go down by the Philly Live! development where the Spectrum once stood. That vision is subject to change at Nutter’s discretion, McLaughlin said.

A fund has been set up at Philadelphia Foundation to receive donations, according to McLaughlin. Per the terms of the original proposal, the Smokin’ Joe Frazier Foundation would receive excess funds.

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.