Monday, November 7, 2011

Joe Frazier - Philadelphia's True Champ



I find it incredible that Sylvester Stallone can be honored in the Boxing Hall of Fame for creating the fictitious perpetual underdog Rocky and Philadelphia celebrates that achievement with him but a real boxing legend who has represented Philadelphia honorably for decades doesn't get the same treatment. What I'm talking about specifically is that there is no statue immortalizing the boxing champ who floored Muhammad Ali.

Joe Frazier was a true American Dream come from nothing and work your way up story if there ever was one. Stallone said that people accept Balboa as authentic, they should parts of Rocky's character are based on Frazier's life: Frazier eventually took the Greyhound bus, "the dog", from the South to Harlem. He ended up working in a Philadelphia slaughterhouse. "I was the drain man. My job was to make sure the blood went down the drain. But sometimes, early in the morning, I'd go down that long rail of meat and work on my punching. That's how [Sylvester] Stallone got the same idea for Rocky - just like he used the story about me training by running up the steps of the museum in Philly. But he never paid me for none of my past. I only got paid for a walk-on part. Rocky is a sad story for me."  

Frazier has not only represented Philadelphia in champion fashion but the whole damn country as well. He was the only boxer to win a gold medal in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.


Granted Joe Frazier wasn't as outspoken politically or charismatic as Muhammad Ali but revisionist history would have you believe that Ali was always beloved and sainted. The reality is Ali was hated by most and seen as arrogant and conceited by those who didn't despise him (my mother couldn't stand Ali's arrogance and constantly referred to him as Cassius Clay up until the mid 80s). Joe Frazier chose to not be outwardly political and for that he was cast not only as an opponent to Ali but as a villain. Their clash wasn't just as athletes but as representatives of opposing forces in a socio-political battle. To root for Muhammad Ali was to side with the "People". And if Ali was for the people then Joe Frazier obviously had to be for the "Man", the "Old Boy Network. And that's where, I think, things went in another direction for Smokin' Joe.


A combination of lack of self promotion, naively believing that good hard work would be appreciated and recognized and racism (how much or little of a factor it plays is debatable but its in there somewhere) seems to be responsible for the marked lack of recognition of the work and representation Frazier has done for the city of Philadelphia. Unfortunately its too late to honor Frazier in life but the city can still correct its oversight by commissioning a statue dedicated to the man who showed more love for his city and country than it showed him. 















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