are some of the emails that came my way regarding my tribute piece on Joe
Frazier, who passed away on Monday at the age of 67 from liver cancer (Merchant Remembers “His Fighter”).
“Hi Steve, just finished reading your
article on Joe Frazier and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your
effort to honor Joe. So many of the “tributes” I’ve read have just focused on
Frazier’s series with Ali, but even as great as that series was, Joe Frazier
was a lot more than just those 3 fights. It took someone like Larry Merchant,
with his vast history in our sport and his reverence for true warriors to give
Joe his due. Thanks for tapping Larry for the article and for the feeling you
put into the words. It was the best of the tributes by far, thank you for doing
such a good job on it.
By the way, I want to also thank you for
shinning a light on the one and only, true “Fight of the Century”, Frazier/Ali
I. These days it’s almost always overshadowed by the Thrilla’ in Manila,
but for those of us who lived through the buildup, the fight and the aftermath,
it really did make the entire world stop for that one night, just as Larry
pointed out. Ali/Frazier III was a truly wondrous fight, but the first fight
was a mega event like none other. Thank you for making that point.
Then there was this note...
Thank you for a great article on Joe Frazier.
With respect to Sinatra: He took photos on behalf of Life Magazine, not Time.
Very truly yours,
duly noted and thank you.
[Editor’s note: Dammit.]
“Hey Steve, I have emailed
you from time to time from over here in Philly.
I enjoy your work and consider you the a true"journalist" on
boxing. Yes, unfortunately today I have a but to my compliments.
You wrote in your article today the following.
I think it’s looooong
overdue that Philadelphia, which has
a statue of a fictitious boxer (Rocky Balboa), erect one of Frazier. Despite
being born in Beaufort, South Carolina,
he was synonymous with Philly.
His death to me, along with the demise of the Blue Horizon, is very symbolic of
the fading impact and importance the sport of boxing has on this city. Long
ago, it was known as a “boxing city.” I’m not sure you can say that anymore.
A few points I have to
make. First, we have a Rocky statue because they movie makers paid for
the statue to be made and then chose to leave it in Philly. It is not
like the city or Philly boxing fans got together and decided to make a Rocky
statue over Joe Frazier (I know that is not what you were implying but a lot of
people do think that way and it is not that simple). As to having a
Frazier statue. Man I wish we had one of Frazier along with Statues of
Benny Briscoe, George Benton, Jeff Chandler,
and many others. Unfortunately getting the funds to build a statue is not
easy and getting the city of Philadelphia involved or to even be cooperative is
absurdly difficult. I watched several very dedicated boxing people (John
Disanto of phillyboxinghistory.com and the VBA) go to extremes to get the
Joey Giardello statue built and it is no simple thing to accomplish, especially
here in Philly where a permit to do anything can take years to get.
On to the second point of
the fading impact of boxing on the city. As someone who covers boxing in
Philly and the surrounding area boxing is alive and well in Philly. I
just spent the evening at Shuler's gym in West Philly and I dare anyone to find more intense
sparring in the country. I had read your article before heading to
they gym and had it in my mind as I watch Steve Cunningham train, hear HankLundy talk (always interesting), and a host
of tough talented fighters spar including Karl Dargan, Jamaal
Davis, Garrett Wilson, Dhafir Smith, and others. The whole time
Nazim Richardson is one of the many great trainers in the house. This
place is alive and kicking. Fans attend fights and love the sport.
Kids were all over Shuler's training to be the next fighters. Boxing
may not get the attention football does but where in the country can say that
boxing is bigger than football or baseball but here in Philly we still have the
passion for boxing.
Sorry that was so long, I
know you are busy. I will continue to read you and appreciate your
work. If I didn't like you I would not bother giving your article (or one
paragraph) a second thought. Keep up the good work. I
look forward to the day you get out to the east coastto cover a
fight and I can sit at the press section with you (although I am not sure
I can hang beer for beer with you but I will try).
Gary, thanks for writing in. Your thoughts are appreciated and I hope the rumors
of Philly's demise as a “boxing city” were greatly exaggerated by me. Hey, we
need as many cities interested in the sport as possible. With its rich
tradition and history with the sport, it would be a shame if it faded away.