Two weeks ago, city officials announced that a statue of Philadelphia’s legendary non-fictional boxer Joe Frazier would soon become a sports-complex attraction.
The news was accompanied by a plea for donations via a Frazier-statue focused website, and it was widely touted as a long-overdue honor in a city that already commemorated a movie pugilist.
“Smokin’ Joe carried himself with great dignity,” Mayor Michael Nutter said at a Sept. 12 press conference on the north side of City Hall. “He gave and gave and gave so much to our city . . . Joe Frazier truly deserves this recognition. We need fans to show their support.”
No money coming in
The cost of the statue, for which a site had been selected but final design requires Frazier family approval, is an estimated $150,000 to cover the sculpture itself and preservation/upkeep, according to Nutter.
That number immediately dropped by $25,000 courtesy of a check from Xfinity Live, the entertainment complex outside of which the statue would stand by the end of 2013.
As of Monday afternoon, four fans had shown their support, donating $200 toward an effort that remains $124,800 short of the goal set by the Fund for Philadelphia, the city’s non-profit organization.
Erica Atwood, the city’s external-affairs and community-engagement specialist, said Monday that a national online-push is in the works to help raise the funds needed to make the statue a reality. It is targeted to launch within weeks, she said.
The Executioner chimes in
In a city that has produced a long line of boxing greats, Bernard Hopkins represents the modern-day standard bearer, having gone from a North Philly tough who landed in prison to the oldest boxer to ever win a world title.
Hopkins has long railed against the Rocky statue slight of the legendary Frazier, the one-time heavyweight champion of the world who knocked Muhammad Ali down amid three all-time great fights.
During an interview prior to a 2010 fight, Hopkins said, “Joe Frazier is the king of Philadelphia boxing. He deserves some respect, something to honor him. A statue. If they find somewhere we can put it, I will pay for it.”
On Tuesday morning, NewsWorks spoke with Hopkins for reaction to the lack of donations. The loquacious interviewee, who said he suggested the stadium complex site (where he hopes his statue will also stand one day), struggled for words.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked. “I know it’s hard times out there, but all the athletes in the city, the business people, the fans, it should be that we’ve already gotten enough money and we’re donating the extra to groups like the Boys and Girls Club, like [former Phillie] Shane Victorino, who wasn’t even from Philly. What are we doing here?”
A renewed call for donations
Since the NewsWorks interview was the first he had heard of the dearth of donations, Hopkins vowed to get involved in the fundraising effort, promising to cover whatever amount is needed to make the statue a reality by the end of next year.
“This is not a boxing thing. This is a Joe Frazier thing. Even if we can’t say it to his face now, it’s a way to show our appreciation to a man who always embraced Philadelphia,” said Hopkins, noting that he would like to turn Frazier’s old gym on North Broad Street into a community center.
“I’m going to make this happen. It’s the right thing to do. He should be recognized,” he continued. “We’re not begging for money here. If I gotta do it [cover the remaining cost], I’m gonna do it.
“But, I want everybody to give five, 10, 20 dollars so they can say ‘I helped put that statue up.’ That’s not bragging. That’s showing respect. Candy sales. Stores like Geno’s and Pat’s [Steaks]. Anybody who Joe ever signed an autograph for. Now, is the time to give back.”