By Thomas Gerbasi
It was as random a meeting as you could think of, but when it was over, Weatta Frazier Collins had a mission, and being the daughter of Joe Frazier, she wasn’t going to stop until it was accomplished.
“I met a child in North Philadelphia that lived right around the corner and he had no idea who Joe Frazier was and that ticked me off,” Frazier Collins said. “His legacy exists.”
For any fan of boxing, that legacy can be recited chapter and verse – Olympic gold medalist, world heavyweight champion, one-half of the greatest trilogy in history with Muhammad Ali, hall of famer, legend.
But did a younger generation know of Smokin’ Joe, especially in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia?
“He didn’t have all the accolades that some of our other heroes had,” said Frazier Collins. “My father did a lot for Philadelphia. They talk about the Eagles, but my father was the first underdog. ‘What do you mean this guy under six feet is gonna be the heavyweight champion of the world?’ But my father was an individual that was sometimes his worst enemy. So there were no foundations, no schools, no buildings, nothing named after Joe Frazier.”
That was the personality of Frazier, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 67. He was generous to a fault, always willing to help someone in need, but he didn’t find it necessary to publicize what he did.
“He was a silent giver and he was someone who would give you the shirt off his back,” said Frazier Collins, recalling when a local church hit hard times and her dad stepped in. “Bright Hope Baptist Church was going into foreclosure. When he found out, he just wrote the check. ‘How much is it? Well, here’s the money, save the church.’”
And that was fine with Frazier. If he was able to help, he would, no questions asked. But the youngest of his 11 children wanted more for him, so after that encounter in North Philly, she started The Legacy Exists non-profit, which is home to the Smokin’ Joe Frazier Scholarship Fund, in 2015.
Tonight, March 9, the day after the 48th anniversary of Ali-Frazier I, the foundation holds its fourth annual cocktail fundraiser at Penns Landing Caterers in Philadelphia. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Smokin’ Joe while also raising money for scholarships for young people from the age of 13 to 19.
“Joe Frazier thought after 19 if you don’t have your stuff together by then, you had a problem,” Weatta laughs. “He had four, five kids before he was 20.”
Last year, 18 scholarships were issued. This year, the program continues to grow.
“This year we’re going to give out less scholarships, but we’re giving out more money, and I’m just grateful to be able to see the photos and to be able to hear the stories about the legendary boxer Joe Frazier,” she said.
He’s legendary to us. But it’s key to remember that to Weatta, he was dad, and that’s the person she wants us to know about as well.
“More than anything, he believed everyone was blessed with a gift,” she said. “He was a humble man and he didn’t want accolades. He said, ‘I’m just doing my job, and if everybody does their job, this world would be a better place.’ So find your gift, build on it and his famous line was ‘Get the job done, no excuses.’”
For more information on The Legacy Exists and the Smokin’ Joe Frazier Scholarship Fund, visit https://www.thelegacyexists.com/