“Smokin” Joe Frazier died on November 7th 2011 and on September 13th 2015 a statue of the former undisputed heavyweight champion was unveiled in front of the Xfinity Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Frazier’s adopted hometown. This weekend in his honor a statue of former WBC/IBF heavyweight champion Larry Holmes will be unveiled in his adopted hometown of Easton Pennsylvania. Both Frazier and Holmes are without question among the top-10 greatest heavyweight champions who have yet lived and are more than deserving of the honor and lofty praise bestowed upon them. In retirement Joe and Larry became good friends and were two of the best ambassadors for boxing the sport has ever had.
As most know Frazier and Holmes were both over shadowed by the looming presence of Muhammad Ali during their title tenures. In the early 1970s Holmes sparred with Frazier in preparation for Joe’s first two epic bouts with Ali. Holmes also worked as one of Ali’s chief sparring partners through early 1975. And in a twist of fate Larry defeated Rodney Bobick in the highest profile bout of his career at the time on the under-card of Ali-Frazier III, more commonly referred to as the “Thrilla In Manila” on September 30, 1975.
The statue of Frazier is a pose emulating him dropping Ali in the 15th and final round of their first fight known as the “Fight Of The Century” won by Frazier. The version of the statue capturing Larry’s image is of his piston like left jab, the punch that played a major role in him compiling a career record of 69-6 (44). It can be said without impunity that Frazier owned perhaps the best left-hook in heavyweight history and Holmes may have owned the greatest left jab in heavyweight history. A fight between 1969-71 Frazier and 1980-82 Holmes would’ve really been something to see.
Both defeated Ali in their prime:
Something else Joe and Larry have in common is they both defeated Muhammad Ali during their physical prime but not his. But due to the circumstances surrounding Ali in 1971 and 1980 when they defeated him, they do not get full credit for the monumental feat. In Frazier’s case, Ali was coming off a 43 month layoff and fought twice in just six weeks before facing Frazier in the biggest and most widely anticipated bout in boxing history. Had you not been aware of the fact that Muhammad was coming off the long layoff, you would never have surmised he was four years removed from his last title defense while watching him get off during the bout, especially the first five rounds. However, Frazier dropped Ali in the 15th round with a single left-hook, swelled his jaw up to the size of a grapefruit and beat him conclusively by unanimous decision. But even to this day Frazier doesn’t get his due props for beating the 29 year old Ali. And that’s because most retort, “yeah, but Ali was coming off the long period of inactivity, Frazier would’ve never touched Ali in his prime.” Well, to that I say…..I’m not sure any version of Ali that I ever saw would’ve defeated “Smokin” Joe Frazier on Monday night March 8th, 1971.
In Holmes case, he fought Ali two months shy of his 39th birthday and when he was coming out of retirement after not fighting in a little over two years. Larry pummeled Ali for seven consecutive rounds and administered Muhammad the worst beating he ever suffered in the ring by any other fighter. Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, mercifully stopped the massacre after the 10th round. During the bout Holmes, 30, could do everything better than Ali and it was no contest. No, Larry didn’t really prove anything nor did he get credit for beating Ali in the aftermath because Ali was no longer a great fighter after 1975, but if you doubt that a prime Holmes wouldn’t have provided Ali one of his toughest match-ups, stylistically, of any heavyweight in history; you’re out of your mind and don’t know what you are watching. Larry Holmes was that great!
The things I respect and love about Larry Holmes are, he could really fight and being the heavyweight champion of the world meant something to him. Larry showed up in top condition for every title defense and fought with the mindset of the challenger. Holmes had outstanding fundamentals and basics and understood range and distance perfectly. He knew what punch to throw and when to throw it. In addition to that he could throw every punch in the book. His jab is legendary and his right hand had knockout power. And fighters who fought him lazily on the inside, nearly had their head decapitated from his whipping right uppercut, and trading left hooks with him unless you’re Joe Frazier wasn’t a wise choice either. And the more Holmes was hurt and challenged during the bout, the better he fought.
Granted, Holmes wasn’t blessed with great opposition to push himself against like Ali and Frazier were, but he fought the best of his era and dominated it for seven consecutive years, and that’s all you can ask of any fighter. The body of work is there for Holmes and the eye test conveys unequivocally that he could’ve lived with any past heavyweight great from the gloved era beginning with John L. Sullivan through Lennox Lewis, and on his best nights would’ve come out on top more times than not.
The centerpiece of the Holmes monument is of him firing that beautiful jab, his signature punch.
According to Lehighvalleylive.com …”A revived effort to complete the job came from someone close to Holmes: his wife Diane. They’ll celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary on Dec. 23. About a year ago, Diane Holmes assembled a group of a dozen friends and relatives and formed a nonprofit organization, Heart of a Legend. She says she got the idea in church.
The group raised the money required to finish the statue, although Diane Holmes chooses not to specify the amount. “Money is the root of all evil,” she said. “My thing about money is that’s what’s wrong with this world. I’m so grateful for everybody who participated and helped us, going back to Day 1.
“If it would have taken us another five years, we were determined to do it. I prayed and the Lord brought me a great bunch of people. He opened the door and he showed us and we got it done.”
Well done Diane, your husband is truly one of the greatest of the greats and his recognition is well earned and deserved!
Fortunately for Larry Holmes he lived to see his image proudly honored, unlike his buddy Joe Frazier.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com