09/02/2014 02:50 EDT | Updated 11/02/2014 05:59 EST

Joe Frazier to be immortalized with 9-foot statue

Better late than never.

But in case of the late Joe Frazier, it didn’t happen soon enough.

Artist Stephen Layne is finishing up a nine-foot-tall clay statue of "Smokin' Joe" that captures Philadelphia's local hero in mid-punch, work that he began in March.

As the real boxing hero of Philadelphia, Frazier always felt hurt by the statue of Rocky Balboa, the fictional heavyweight fighter made famous by Sylvester Stallone that was kept by the city after Rocky III in 1982.

Sadly, Frazier won’t be around to share in his honour as the former heavyweight champion died in 2011 of liver cancer.  

Frazier won the 1964 Olympic gold medal in Tokyo and later finished with a professional record of 32-4-1, with 27 knockouts. Two of the losses were epic rematches with legendary fighter Muhammad Ali, including the "Thrilla in Manila" in 1975. However, he became the first boxer to defeat Ali in the first of the legendary three-fight trilogy back in 1971.

Here’s a shot the nine-foot sculpture.


Robin Hazel, an Ottawa tourist, got a chance to share his feelings on Philadelphia’s icon.

"Properly promoted, I think it would be much, much bigger than Rocky," said Hazel. "Rocky is great, it's a movie. But Joe Frazier's real. And he's Philadelphia."