PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Funeral services were held for Joe Frazier Monday morning at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, in Mt. Airy. Pastor Dr. Alyn Waller eulogized the former Heavyweight Champion of the World, by reading from a scripture that read in part, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course.” The sermon focused on Frazier’s greatest moments and how he was able to rise from his lowest ones.
Smokin’ Joe’s casket sat on the alter of the Enon Tabernacle Church in North Philadelphia with a pair of his boxing gloves, his championship belt and a photo of Frazier during his prime. Reverand Jesse Jackson said Joe Frazier was born an ordinary Joe, but rose to extraordinary heights:
“Smokin’ Joe’s journey from a shack in South Carolina to the king of ring at Madison Square Garden was a long journey.”
“In life, we fall down, we’re knocked down, but we get up again,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson. “We know that while down, the ground is no place for a champion. Against those odds we saw a champion keep rising and he will never fall down again.”
He received a standing ovation when he urged the city to erect a statute to honor the fighter:
“Real champions are made in the ring, not on movies! Tell them who deserves a statue in downtown Philadelphia! Smokin Joe Frazier!”
When the service came to an end, hundreds waited in the parking lot, in hopes of catching a glimpse of Muhammad Ali, who sat in the front pew inside the sanctuary. Ali walked slowly out of the church doors and got into a black SUV with his wife and others. He didn’t address the media or the crowd, but many felt his presence said enough.
Frazier’s former manager, Burt Watson said he is still trying to come to grips with losing a man he considered a dear friend for so many years. “I know he was a little sick, because I saw him a few months ago in Vegas doing an autograph session,” said Watson. “The ceremony was absolutely beautiful for the man who meant so much to this city and so much to boxing.”
Former Heavy Weight Champion Larry Holmes shared one of his fondest memories of “Smokin Joe”. Holmes said he remembers receiving an injury from Frazier when he was Frazier’s sparring partner. “One of the things that I cherish, is, in the midst of all my work, Joe caught me in one of those rounds, second or third round, he cracked my rib,” said Holmes. “I never let him know it because I wanted to work and I wanted to help him, but that was like a badge of honor for me.
WBC light-heavyweight Champion Bernard Hopkins trained at Frazier’s old gym, when he was a little boy. “If we can be or if I can be remembered when my time come, to get half the respect, and half of the crowd, then you’ve done something not only in your own family but you’ve done something amongst other families and other people.”
Reported by Jericka Duncan, CBS 3; Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio