Impoverishment Knocks Out Philadelphia’s Strides For Greatness
The recent ceremony in North Philadelphia renaming a portion of Glenwood Avenue in honor of legendary heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier was a salient step in pushing back on a profound poverty that permeates the city.
The recent ceremony in North Philadelphia renaming a portion of Glenwood Avenue in honor of legendary heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier was a salient step in pushing back on a profound poverty that permeates the city ‘Smokin’ Joe’ loved so much.
Joe Frazier held the title of undisputed heavyweight champion of the world from 1970-1973. That highlighted his ring career where he pounded his way to a record of 32-4-1 with 27 knockouts. Frazier’s ring battles with Muhammad Ali still captivate millions around the world
Philadelphia also has an undisputed title: that of the poorest city among America’s ten largest cities. Twenty-six percent of Philly’s 1.5-million residents live in poverty.
That PEW report listed Philadelphia poverty rates as 38 percent for Hispanics, 31 percent for blacks, 23 percent for Asians and 15 percent for whites.
Yes, too many Philadelphians are structurally impoverished.
"The poverty that received a well overdue punch in the face at the Frazier ceremony is a poverty of spirit that permeates Philadelphia"
However, that push back on poverty that occurred during the dedication of ‘Smokin Joe Frazier Boulevard near the North Broad Street building that housed Frazier’s famous boxer training gym had nothing to do with the traditional understandings of poverty as living with a severe lack of money.
The poverty that received a well overdue punch in the face at the Frazier ceremony is a poverty of spirit that permeates Philadelphia. That impoverishment of spirit condemns local folks who’ve achieved so much to so often receive so little rightful recognition. Yes, too little ‘love’ from the City of Brother Love. And, for people of color, that damning lack of ‘love’ dynamic is peculiarly pronounced.
With Philadelphia having the incredible title of historically being home base for over two dozen world boxing champions in various weight classes, its long been an insult to that legacy that the boxer most identified with Philadelphia is the movie character Rocky not Philly’s real-life champion boxers like Frazier – the man who “did a lot for a lot of people” as one North Philly resident pointed out.
The Rocky statue at Philadelphia’s acclaimed Art Museum attracts thousands annually. While Philly proudly projects Rocky as part of its personality nothing comparable exists for the real champs whose accomplishments built the aura that gave validity to the Rocky plot.
Easton, Pa, a tiny town on the Delaware River 50-miles north of Philadelphia, that is 55-times smaller than Philadelphia, has long recognized its hometown hero, heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes, who once served as a sparring partner for Frazier.
A statue of Holmes was unveiled in Easton in 2015, located in a park along the previously named: Larry Holmes Drive.
Holmes was one of the speakers during that Frazier street naming ceremony. Holmes stressed Frazier’s inspirational importance for today’s youth: a career that exemplified achievement through hard work and belief in one’s ability to excel.