PHILADELPHIA — Smokin’ Joe will headline one more boxing card.
The family of Joe Frazier is set to honor the former heavyweight champion with a slate of bouts in Atlantic City, New Jersey – site of his parents’ first date, his son noted – to celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday.
Joe Frazier Jr. Promotions in association with Danny Swift Garcia Promotions will run the card featuring mostly young fighters on Jan. 13 at Boardwalk Hall, once the premier home of boxing on the East Coast. Frazier, the relentless, undersized heavyweight who ruled the division as champion, would have turned 80 on Jan. 12. Frazier died on Nov. 7, 2011, after a brief battle with liver cancer.
In the years after his death, Frazier’s bond with Philadelphia has only grown tighter. Frazier has a statue outside an entertainment complex near the city’s three sports stadiums on the site of the now-demolished Spectrum, an arena where he fought. Frazier spent much of his life in his adopted hometown fighting until the end to earn respect as one of the city’s sports greats.
“Some people say he hasn’t gotten his just due,” Joe Frazier Jr. said. “My father was never about that. He was all about giving back to the kids. If it was up to him, he wouldn’t have a statue or a mural out anywhere. But it does make me feel good to see the recognition and his name kept alive.”
Without a viable venue available in Philly, Frazier’s family decided to roll the dice on Atlantic City, as they hope for a boxing revival on the boardwalk.
“My father didn’t box there. But he did a lot of gambling there,” Frazier said, laughing. “But come to find out, my mother and him had their first date there. It’s just the proximity of it, being so close to Jersey and Philly. It’s been the mecca of boxing before. Let’s just bring it back.”
Undefeated fighters Dylan Price and Leanna Cruz are part of the fight night, as is Philadelphia heavyweight Joey Dawejko.
HBO and Showtime have each discontinued boxing programming, leaving promoters hopeful of finding a streaming service for a card billed as “Hooked on Greatness.”
The 35-year-old Garcia, a Philly native and former WBC light welterweight champion, said it was his mission to build a better path toward title fights for blossoming fighters.
Garcia sat out all of 2023 and hasn’t fought since a July 2022 win over José Benavidez Jr. at Barclays Center. He hoped to fight again next year.
“I didn’t fight because I didn’t want to,” Garcia said. “I wanted to fight. It’s just politics. It didn’t happen. It’s not that easy. People think you can just call people up and say you want to fight next week. You have to wait your turn. Right now, I’m just waiting it out.”
Frazier is forever linked with Muhammad Ali, the heavyweights involved in perhaps the greatest trilogy of fights. A vicious left hook from Frazier put Muhammad Ali on the canvas in the 15th round in March 1971 when he became the first man to beat him in the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden. They went 41 rounds together.
Frazier was small for a heavyweight, weighing just 205 pounds when he won the title by stopping Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their 1970 fight at Madison Square Garden.
“I understand that if we don’t continue to bring his legacy out, he will be forgotten in the minds of the young ones,” said Frazier, the 41-year-old son. “That’s who I really want to educate. Everyone my age and up knows who he is. They’ll always remember.”