I kid around a lot with Marvis Frazier about boxing with him, but believe me I have never suffered from the illusion that I would stand a chance in the same ring with Marvis or any other pugilist – and I felt that way even before I ever stepped into a ring. A boxing ring is not a big place. The size of the ring does vary, ranging from 16′ by 16′ (amateur minimum) to a maximum professional size of 25′ by 25′, with most professional rings being 20′ by 20′.
Now you might think that sounds big, but a good way to dispel that thinking is to get into one. A few months after Marvis and I started the book about his life, he invited my daughter, Sadie, and me to Philadelphia for dinner. While we were there, Marvis took us downtown to visit his Dad’s Gym. It was exciting just to be heading toward Joe Frazier’s Gym, but stepping inside the door of the place was like a fantasy. Despite being closed and showing signs of age, the gym was still set up like it had been during its hay day when so many of the greatest in the sport put in regular appearances. The creaky wooden floors, the walls – covered with pictures of the greats, the various punching bags suspended from the ceiling, and the Ring. Right there in the center of the room was the same ring where Smokin’ Joe, Marvis, and so many other great boxers had fine tuned their skills.
My daughter Sadie, being an amateur photographer of sorts was drawn by all the pictures on the walls, but I was mesmerized by that Ring. I just had to get up into it. So I checked with Marvis then jumped up on the skirt, slipped through the ropes, and was in. Wow! I spun around to look at each of the four corners. It was just an empty boxing ring but my imagination quickly filled it with all the details of fight night: the lights, the crowd, the press, the referee, and the ring announcer. And yes, I was suddenly much younger and in my first professional fight! My opponent? Why not? I was fighting Big George Foreman.
Just about the moment my imagination placed the 6’4″ 250 lb. giant in the opposite corner of the ring I was gripped by a spell breaking realization; this ring is WAY too small!
You know…I like playing ice hockey; 60′ by 200′ sheet of ice and lots of room to run when the big guys are after you. I also admire Marvis Frazier more than ever after being in that little 20′ by 20′ space.
Until next time, Jamie