Joe Frazier vs. Rocky Balboa

By Robert Ecksel on September 3, 2014
Joe Frazier vs. Rocky Balboa
"That pose of glory, I don't think that's quite the vibe of Philadelphia.” (Matt Rourke/AP)

The artist Stephen Layne, who is putting the finishing touches on the Frazier statue, isn’t that fond of the Rocky statue…

When Joe Frazier was in his prime he was virtually indestructible. But now that he’s gone, having died of liver cancer three years ago at age 67, a new opponent may give Smokin’ Joe a run for his money.

After many delays, a nine-foot tall clay statue of Joe Frazier is nearing completion. Beset with funding issues, alleviated in part by the generosity of Bernard Hopkins, and the sudden death of the original sculptor, an 1800-pound likeness of the former heavyweight champ will be cast in bronze and should be unveiled in the spring.

Unlike the statue of fictional Rocky Balboa, which stands atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the statue of Joe Frazier will stand five miles south of that prime real estate, in front of Xfinity Live, an entertainment complex by Philly’s three sports stadiums.

The artist Stephen Layne, who is putting the finishing touches on the Frazier statue, isn’t especially fond of the Rocky statue. “That pose of glory,” he said, “the Rocky pose, I don’t think that’s quite the vibe of Philadelphia.” More in keeping with the “vibe of Philadelphia,” Layne said, “It was so obvious that [Frazier] was completely willing to get beat up ... so that he could achieve what he wanted. And I thought that was just an inspirational thing to watch.”

Others beside Layne have wondered about the Rocky statue and its place of prominence.  The hugely successful Rocky films presumably put Philly on the map, assuming it wasn’t on the map before Sylvester Stallone put it there, and its artistic merits are questionable, especially in context of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, no less than the Rodin Museum down the street.

But Joe Frazier is an actual sports hero and not a fantasy figure in gloves and satin shorts, so perhaps it makes sense that the Frazier statue will stand where sports fans can see it. But busloads of tourists come from all over the world visit the Rocky statue every day. Will they do the same with a statue of Joe Frazier?

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  1. Tommy Theo 08:11pm, 11/23/2014

    Guys, guys, calm down. Rocky Balboa and his statue aren’t a slight to Joe, or this city. The character’s grit and courage are a tribute to both. Joe set the standard, and Stallone’s movies did a pretty decent job of upholding it IN A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE. The statue is a prop, and through popular culture, has become a symbol of our city’s collective will and determination. Joe’s will be a memorial to an outstanding boxer, and a great man.

    This is a stupid article. This is apples and oranges. Rocky is about the city, Joe’s is about the man. They’re both a part of our city’s soul, even if they couldn’t be more different.

  2. peter 01:58pm, 09/03/2014

    I wish those two Philly statues could fight each other in The Blue Horizon. It would be a packed house and Joe Frazier would undoubtedly score another first-round KO.

  3. Clarence George 12:58pm, 09/03/2014

    Well said, Professor Tanaka.

  4. Tanaka 12:31pm, 09/03/2014

    I am not from Philadelphia, I am not even American but as a Boxing fan, I always thought this statue of Rocky was an insult not only to Frazier and the Great legends who came for Philadelphia but also to all this forgotten fighters who ended in poverty or worst.

  5. Eric 09:46am, 09/03/2014

    Watch the 10th round of Frazier vs Bugner. Joe lands a left on Bugner and Bugner just starts folding into sections.  Frazier had every opportunity to club Bugner again, but held back allowing Bugner to slowly reach the canvas. Watch the second Frazier vs Quarry fight where Frazier motions for Joe Louis to check out Quarry after Joe rips Quarry’s skin with his punches.  Frazier was as merciful as he was courageous. An extraordinary man and fighter.

  6. The Tache 09:24am, 09/03/2014

    Is it just me, or do the arms on the Rocky statue look too long?

  7. Clarence George 09:02am, 09/03/2014

    I’ll add my voice to that of Eric and Barry—Joe Frazier was, is, and always will be one of my absolute favorite fighters.  I always rooted for him, especially when he fought Ali, whom I never cared for.  Ali was the better fighter, but Frazier the better man.  A pretty good epitaph.

  8. Barry 08:09am, 09/03/2014

    No matter what Sylvester Stallone claims, about who inspired him to make the Rocky movies. The TRUTH of it is, Stallone copied Joe Frazier. The Rocky movies 1 & 2 are almost mirror image copies of what Joe Frazier done in the excellent documentary, “The Fighters”.. Stallone copied Frazier’s “speed-ball training” he even copied Frazier’s hat and clothes. Stallone claims, it was seeing Chuck Wepner that inspired him, which is garbage. Watch The Fighters, then watch Rocky 2. .Joe Frazier was an incredible fighter, who loved Philadelphia “his roots”. The statue looks incredible, were the Rocky statue looks fake. i cannot think of a greater tribute to such a great great fighter, than this fantastic statue being erected in his beloved hometown.

  9. Eric 08:08am, 09/03/2014

    Clarence… Boxing isn’t what it used to be and either is Philadelpha. Boxing’s only competition back in the sport’s glory years was from baseball. Boxing has now been surpassed by MMA, and even “rasslin” in popularity, so it is no suprise that a ficitonal boxer could be every bit as famous as one of the all time greats in today’s world. Frazier was my personal idea of what a champion should be like. Frazier was vicious in the ring, but humble, amiable, and reserved outside of it. Unfortunately a good deal of the public prefers or identifies with the Ali mold for their heavyweight champ. Ali stole a great deal of Joe’s thunder in and out of the ring.

  10. Eric 07:55am, 09/03/2014

    The Boxing Hall Of Fame definitely needs to be relocated to Philadelphia. Placing the Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, New York, makes about as much sense as the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. You could then place the Frazier statue outside the entrance of the BHOF.

  11. Clarence George 07:50am, 09/03/2014

    But, Eric, the fact that Rocky is “every bit as famous, if not more so,” than Smokin’ Joe speaks volumes…and it don’t say nothin’ good.

  12. Eric 07:45am, 09/03/2014

    Rocky was a fictional character but he’s every bit as famous, if not more so, than “Smokin’ Joe.” You could say the Rocky films put Philadelphia back on the map, but Philadelphia had always been one of our most important cities, especially in terms of history, where Philly’s only competition comes from Boston & New York. I would have loved to seen Frazier honored with a statue while he was still alive rather than be celebrated posthumously. The artist states that Joe Frazier was completely “willing to get beat up…so that he could achieve what he wanted,” but Joe was rarely ever beaten up. Usually it was Joe who was handing out one-sided beatings, and he dominated his opposition up until his first bout with Ali.

  13. Clarence George 07:33am, 09/03/2014

    A very flawed movie, yes, but Burgess Meredith was excellent, especially when he begs to be Rocky’s manager.

  14. Robert Ecksel 07:10am, 09/03/2014

    Totally agree. Tear down the Rocky statue and replace it with statues of real fighters, instead of a feel-good cartoon, however iconic. When I first saw Rocky I walked out of the film, this during a time when boxing could do no wrong, and it hasn’t improved with the years. Celebrating a fantasy is fine; failing to recognize it as such is not.

  15. Clarence George 04:49am, 09/03/2014

    What they should do is put up a statue of “The Boy in the Box,” so that someone might finally identify that poor lad.

    Mr. Nutter, tear down this Rocky statue!  Replace it with a pantheon of Philly’s finest fighters—Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Tommy Loughran, Ad Wolgast, Sidney “Sweet Pea” Adams, whom I always liked, Joe Frazier, of course, Tony Galento, whom Chuck Hasson informs us was very much an adopted son…Anyway, that’s my recommendation.

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