With all the hoopla going on at present about the summer Olympic Games, I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of Marvis Frazier’s connection to the Olympics.
For Marvis it all started when he was only four years old. It was 1964 and his Dad, Smokin’ Joe Frazier was on his way to the Olympic Games in Tokyo as a replacement for the U.S. boxing team. Because of an injury to teammate Buster Mathis, Joe was able to participate and won the Gold Medal in the heavyweight division. Smokin’ Joe broke his hand in that tournament and four year old Marvis noticed the cast on his daddy’s hand more than the Gold Medal around his neck when Joe returned home.
Sixteen years later, in 1980, it was Marvis’s turn to try to bring home the gold and attempt to be the only father/son team to ever win boxing Gold Medals in the Olympics. Marvis was at the end of a fabulous amateur career (see our earlier Post called “Amazing Amateur”) and was pegged to win the heavyweight slot on the U.S. boxing squad. Unfortunately, fate was waiting for Marvis in the semi-finals of the qualifying tournament. After easily winning his fights in the first two rounds to reach the semi’s, Marvis fell fast from a single punch in his fight against James Broad in the semi-final round, thus failing to make the U.S. team and dashing his Olympic Gold Medal dream. The explanation for this surprise loss came some two years later when it was discovered that Marvis had a congenital spine problem that could cause temporary paralysis from the slightest jarring of his head if the angle of his neck was just a certain way. Fortunately, the condition was corrected by surgery before Marvis suffered any long term paralysis, though not in time for him to avoid losing in the Olympic trials. Ironically, 1980 was the year that the United States government boycotted the Olympic Games and therefore Marvis would not have been able to win a Gold Medal even if he had made the U.S. team.
For the final connection between Marvis and the Olympic Games we need to go back to the 1990’s when, years after Marvis had retired as a boxer, he had the privilege of helping to coach the U.S. Olympic Boxing team. An old acquaintance from his boxing days invited him on board. Sam Hickman, who had helped to mold Marvis into the great boxer that he was as one of his four coaches had moved on from his work at Joe Frazier’s Gym and was now an Olympic boxing instructor. Once Sam had this position, he sought out his old friend Marvis to help him with his work. Marvis happily accepted and shared his boxing experiences with the young Olympic hopefuls.
So even though he actually never competed in the Olympic Games, you can be sure that when Marvis sits down to watch the Olympics on TV, it brings back a lot of memories. “Daddy, how did you get that cast on your hand?” Until next time, Jamie
PS. Marvis wanted to express his condolences to Sylvester Stallone for the loss of his son Sage two weeks ago. Marvis has always had the utmost respect for Mr. Stallone and knows there is no greater pain than the loss of a family member.