Joe Frazier's Gym
2917 N. Broad Street
Smokin’ Joe Frazier is arguably the most popular boxer in Philadelphia sports history. Tributes to Frazier stand throughout the city, including a 12-foot bronze statue in front of Xfinity Live in South Philadelphia. An important part of Joe Frazier’s legacy sits at 2917 N. Broad Street in North Philadelphia.
The 1895 constructed building, now used as a furniture store, once housed Joe Frazier’s Gym. The converted dance hall became a training facility for Joe Frazier under the name of Cloverlay Gym in 1968. The name Cloverlay came from the name of the group that funded Frazier’s training as a professional. Cloverlay, Inc. was a group of local Philadelphia investors with backgrounds in education, the clergy, banking, and law. In 1973, Frazier purchased all of the shares in Cloverlay, Inc. and changed the name of the gym to Joe Frazier’s Gym.
Born in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1944, Frazier settled in Philadelphia as teenager. The city became his home, and as his boxing accolades as a professional stacked up, he gained a large fan base. At the 1964 Olympic Games, Frazier captured a Gold Medal in the heavyweight division for the United States. Frazier fought professionally from 1965 to 1981 and retired with an impressive record of 32 wins, four losses, and one draw. During his career, Frazier held the World Heavyweight Championship from 1970 to 1973. Joe Frazier is best remembered by sports fans worldwide for his fierce rivalry with Muhammad Ali. The two men fought a trilogy of fights against one another between 1971 and 1975. His 15 round unanimous decision victory over Ali in 1971 at Madison Square Garden is known as the “Fight of the Century.”
Following his retirement from boxing, Frazier trained the next generation of boxers at his gym. National Gold Gloves Heavyweight Champion Duane Bobick and 1996 Olympic Bronze Medalist Terrance Cauthen both trained at Joe Frazier’s Gym. Joe Frazier had 11 children. Marvis, Jacqui, and Joe Jr. (Hector) all trained and fought professionally out of their father’s gym. Jacqui held titles in multiple weight classes. Most importantly, Joe Frazier’s Gym served as a safe haven from the dangers of the streets for local youth. Frazier taught youth boxing skills and encouraged them to live productive lives.
In 2008, after putting most of his time and fortune into the gym, Frazier was forced to close the gym due to debt and back taxes. Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer in September 2011, and died from the disease on November 7, 2011 in Philadelphia. Upon hearing about his death, his longtime adversary Muhammad Ali exclaimed, "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration."
Since Frazier’s death, there have been plans amongst people in the boxing community to acquire the building to be used again for boxing purposes. Philadelphia boxing legend Bernard Hopkins hopes one day to open a boxing gym and community center in the building. He believes that such a project will be a fitting tribute to the legacy of Joe Frazier. Joe Frazier’s Gym was added to the National Register of Historic Place in 2013. The addition of the building to the Register ensures that this important piece of Philadelphia sports history will be preserved for future generations of Philadelphians and boxing fans.