“Smokin” Joe Frazier the Man thru the Eye’s of Les Wolff
By Ken Hissner and David Ruff, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 1, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Joe Frazier & Les Wolff
Joe Frazier & Les Wolff
For the past 7 years Les Wolff has served as Joe Frazier’s business and personal manager and closest confidant. When they visited the Fraims Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington, DE, this past June you could see how well they worked together.

Fellow writer Dave Ruff made the connection thru Les though Ruff has been a friend of Frazier’s for many years. That’s the way it should be done in boxing. The kid’s still ask about Joe since learning of his death. Ruff and I sat down with Les at the Deerhead restaurant in Wilmington for lunch and an interview.

“The Lord was looking for a heavyweight Angel to kick the butt of the Devil”, said Wolff. That was pertaining to Frazier’s recent death. Wolff was always concerned that people didn’t get to know Frazier the man instead of Frazier the fighter. To hear Frazier’s name without it being linked to Ali never seemed to give Frazier his own identity. “Joe had plenty of tough fights besides Ali,” said Wolff. That he did. I remember Frazier showing and telling me how Oscar Bonavena would move his upper body back a bit while his feet never moved and attack like a rattle snake.

“Wherever we went Joe would come unannounced and people would recognize him. When we first started out 7 years ago I made the mistake of trying to keep the fans away when we were entering an office building in NYC. Joe said to never keep him from his fans. He always took time to sign an autograph. He was even asked to sign a certain part of women’s anatomy that I won’t go into,” said Wolff.

The subject of why Rocky’s statue is in Philadelphia and Frazier’s is a sore point. Stallone paid for his statue. “We have been developing a proposal for the past 6-8 months to support a sculpture garden reflecting Joe’s life and career from the time he first dreamed of being a boxing champion after seeing Joe Louis put on a demonstration in his hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina. It is hoped that on some sculpture project it will take place in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia,” said Wolff. Although Wolff has said there has been some inquiries from NYC about establishing a sculpture in NYC where he had his most famous victory.

Ruff asked who paid for Frazier’s funeral? “Floyd Mayweather paid for a large majority of it and a major corporation that wants to remain anonymous. This CEO felt Joe gave so much to his fans this was on way some of them could give back,” said Wolff. It was not Bernard Hopkins as some might have thought according to Wolff making it clear he could not divulge the name of the giver. Either way it was an enormous show of giving especially from a non-Philadelphian such as Mayweather.

Like so many athletes Frazier has done many things for people without wanting to be recognized for it. “Joe would open his gym an hour earlier for school for the deaf kids. He constantly went out of his way to help others as well as recognize their contributions to society, especially police, firemen and the military,” said Wolff.

Ruff brought up the subject of “Box Like the Pro’s” that Harper-Collins published by Joe Frazier and William Dettloff. “Joe could spend 5 minutes with a boxer and I could see their improvement. He was not only a good trainer he was incredibly street smart,” said Wolff.

Frazier was the father to 11 children. His son Marvis who is the most well-known of the children, is a pastor since retiring from being a boxer, in the DC area. “Joe’s brother Tom was a great influence on Joe,” said Wolff. I remember Tom asking me when I was a matchmaker to work with some of their boxers turning pro. He was very quiet but got his point across to others. “Joe has visited many places such as the VA Hospital in Philadelphia that people have never known about,” said Wolff.

“When the Smoke Clears” was recently shown at the New York Documentary Festival the day after Frazier’s death. “It was to be shown only once but ended up being shown 3 times“, said Wolff. He informed us that on December 13th at the WBC convention in Las Vegas will be airing it. “Jose Sulaiman and his son Mauricio have always been good supporters of Joe’s,” said Wolff. The elder Sulaiman is President of the WBC.

There were many former boxers at the funeral of Frazier’s like Larry Holmes, George Chuvalo, the Spinks brothers and of course Ali. “About a week later George Foreman talked with me and said he would do anything to help if needed pertaining to Joe,” said Wolff. Foreman always talked well of Frazier after defeating the man twice. He said he was scared to death prior to the first fight being in with “Smokin” Joe Frazier and in the ring threw punches before Joe delivered his out of fear of getting knocked out himself.

“Joe was involved in the civil rights movement. He also tried to get Ali’s license back going to then President Nixon. He was also known for helping people who were stranded on the road,” said Ruff. There have been numerous stories since Frazier’s death that we have heard on the radio of how he helped people and afterwards simply left not needing any publicity.

Wolff reflected on times when Frazier would take the stage at clubs after Ruff mentioned he took the stage in DE one night and sang “Mustang Sally”! “We were at the Cotton Club in New York on September the 12th when Joe sang with the band. When we were in Nashville Kenny Rogers came over after Joe sang for an autograph. We were at the Pocono Raceway when Richard Petty came over to Joe,” said Wolff. You could see the love Wolff had for Frazier as we sat there now with sadness of his departure. “Joe was the most humble giving soul I have ever known,” said Wolff.

“We had some fun times together. Donald Trump had us over to an ‘Apprentice’ event where Dennis Rodman was dressed up in a wedding gown. You should have seen the look on Joe’s face as he stared at Rodman,” said Wolff. How about the rest of us? “We had completed a sizzle deal for a proposed show based on our relationship. I jokingly called it Odd Couple II,” said Wolff.

Wolff works with former boxers like the former WBA lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Canadian champion George Chuvalo, a former opponent of Frazier’s, as well as Roberto Benitez who won the 2004 Olympic trials and is 7-1 as a current professional.

It’s this writer’s belief that the people of Philadelphia and the many fans world wide of Frazier’s could contribute for the Sculpture Gardens to become a dream come true in the memory of “Smokin” Joe Frazier, the most famous boxer in Philadelphia history!

Visit www.joefrazierscorner.com to keep aware of that projects progress and to have any comment Joe would like to see. Wolff believes he’s looking down on us to see where he can help..

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