A new boxing statue will find its way down to the sports complex in South Philadelphia later this year, only this time the boxer isn’t fictional. North Philadelphia native Joe Frazier, who registered a 32-4-1 record in his Hall of Fame career, will get his own 10-foot statue which is currently being created by Fishtown artist Stephen Lane.
The statue of the fictional movie character, Rocky, used to stand outside of the First Union Spectrum from 1991-2006 until it was moved to where it currently resides at the base of the Art Museum steps. Frazier, who died of liver cancer in 2011, has been in the center of discussion of whether or not to have a statue of his liking for the past decade.
In April, another legendary Philly boxer Bernard Hopkins shelled out his own money along with Golden Boy Promotions to have the statue created.
“Seeing this statue built has meant a great deal to me for a very long time,” said Hopkins. “I have always felt strongly that Smokin’ Joe has a rightful place in Philadelphia history and that should be honored. We have a ‘Rocky’ statue and Rocky isn’t even real. Joe Frazier embodies the Philadelphia fighting spirit and I am so happy to be able to pay homage to him in this way.”
Philly’s Top 5 sports statues
Even though it’s based off of a fictional character, that doesn’t mean the statue doesn’t hold a special place to sports fans all over the world. The 9-foot-tall 1,500-pound bronze statue at the base of the Art Museum steps gets thousands of visitors a year who stop to pose with the symbolic figure. Created in 1991 by Denver artist A. Thomas Schomberg, the statue epitomizes the blue collar fight to triumph in American society.
The statue of Sixers swingman ‘Dr. J’ shows the 1983 NBA champion in true form — extending for a highlight-reel dunk. Erving was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1993. He won the 1981 MVP award, played in 11 NBA All-Star games and ranks fifth all-time in scoring. Like the Rocky statue, this famous statue used to stand outside of the Spectrum as well before it was torn down in 2010. It was relocated to the Wells Fargo center in 2012. The statue was donated by Converse Inc. in 1989 and sculpted by Kentucky artist Barney Bright.
At the center of Ashburn Alley in Citizen’s Bank Park stands Center fielder Richie Ashburn, part of the pennant-winning ‘Whiz Kids’ in 1950 and a 6-time All-Star with the Phillies. He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 for not just his outstanding playing career, but for his great broadcasting career with the club from 1963-1997. The unique 10-foot statue of Ashburn was placed in the ballpark in 2004, and shows the man trotting along the base paths. It created by artist Zenos Frudakis of Glenside.
Walking down East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, you may have stumbled upon the statue of a stoic boxer delivering a knockout blow during your travels. At South 13th Street between Mifflin and East Passyunk Avenue stands Joey Giardello, the Hall of Fame boxer from South Philly who amassed a 101-25-7 record during his long fighting career, which included the WBA and WBC middleweight titles from 1963-65. The sculpture was created by artist Carl LeVotch of New Jersey and was erected in 2011.
Amazingly, the Flyers first statue to pay tribute in Philadelphia wasn’t of a player but of a singer — Kate Smith. Smith recorded 19 gold records during her long singing career, but the only record which mattered to the Flyers was the one the team held when they opened the game by playing Smith’s version of “God Bless America” instead of the “Star Spangled Banner.” In the first six years of the tradition from 1969-75, the Flyers held an unfathomable 43-3-1 record which included Stanley Cup victories in ‘72 and ‘73. In 1987 the Flyers erected an 8-foot statue of Smith outside of the Spectrum, which has been relocated to stand outside of Xfinity Live! It was sculpted by New York artist Marc Mellon.