Joe Frazier’s Gym, a North Philadelphia landmark at 2917 N. Broad St. above Glenwood Avenue for more than 40 years, has been closed for renovations.
The closure will last at least three months, said Leslie Wolff, Joe Frazier’s business manager.
“The building is at least a century old,” Wolff said. “It’s easier to close down, clean out what could politely be called junk, and see what kind of renovations we need.”
No exact date has been placed on the building being reopened, but the hope is three months from now, Wolff said. Currently contractors are evaluating the historic building, which was a dance hall before Frazier made it a gym in 1969.
There were fears of the gym permanent closing, including a falsified press release originally used by the popular blog Philebrity.com and The Temple News. It didn’t come from Joe Frazier’s Gym, said Wolff, who quickly dispelled the rumor.
“There will always be a Joe Frazier’s Gym,” he said.
Frazier, the former heavyweight champion of the world and longtime rival of Muhammad Ali, lived in a small apartment above the gym, while he toured throughout the country, but has since made a permanent home elsewhere in the region, Wolff said.
“He had been living there off and on, more off,” Wolff said. “But in the last, say, four months, he has lived elsewhere.”
The gym opened in 1969, a few years after Joe turned professional in August 1965. Joe was born the youngest of 12 children on Jan. 12, 1944 in Beaufort, S.C., but made Philadelphia his home. He won a gold medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, before beginning one of the most celebrated careers in boxing history, earning a 32-4-1 career record and winning 27 of his victories by knockout. His three matches against Ali in the 1970s are often considered among the best in sports history.
His son Marvis, also a former boxer, handled the daily operations of the gym, which served as much a community center and outreach program as a training facility.
“It’s not always about boxing,” Marvis told The Temple News last October. “We’re trying to change young men.”
Marvis trained at the now closed gym, also, launching his career there in 1975 and returning to serve as general manager after he retired in 1990. Despite success as an amateur, his professional boxing career was less memorable. Aside from his responsibilities at the gym, Marvis doubled as a Delaware reverend, as The Temple News reported.
“This is the ministry God has given me,” Marvis said of the gym and working with young aspiring boxers.
In retirement, the Fraziers were a draw for top young boxing talent even beyond the region. In February, British featherweight Marianne Marston moved from London to Philadelphia in order that she might train under Joe. Another top female boxer that has been forced to find a new boxing home is Diane Moses, originally from Jacksonville, Fla. Jayson Sia, mentioned in the release, moved from Los Angeles to train.
Marston is returning to London and the others have found different boxing homes, Wolff said. When the gym reopens, there are plans for it to refocus on training professional fighters.
“Joe is one of a few real scientists of the sport,” Wolff said. “Joe Frazier’s Gym can be anywhere in the world. It isn’t the building, it’s Joe.”
Christopher Wink can be reached at email@example.com.