JOE FRAZIER'S GYM in North Philadelphia is to be named Wednesday to the 2012 list of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places," said officials with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Frazier, a heavyweight champion boxer who won gold at the 1964 Olympics, lived and trained at the gym while preparing for the 1971 "Fight of the Century" against Muhammad Ali in New York's Madison Square Garden, where he became the first boxer to defeat Ali. The gym, a modest, three-story brick building, is on Broad Street at Glenwood Avenue.
Frazier, who died in November at 67, also trained there for his two subsequent fights against Ali: the 1974 rematch, also at the Garden, and the Don King-produced "Thrilla in Manila" in the Philippines in 1975. Ali won both of those fights.
In recent years, the century-old building has housed a furniture store on the first floor and has been put up for sale at least twice. It had also once been a warehouse and a dance hall before serving for 40 years as a gym for boxers.
By naming the gym to the list of endangered historic places, preservationists hope to encourage efforts to save it from demolition or major alterations.
"Joe Frazier was a sports legend, and he deserves a place that celebrates his legacy and his contributions to the sport of boxing," Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust, said in a statement. "Without question, Joe Fraziers's Gym is an important historic and cultural site, and bringing both protection and recognition to this site by placing it on the local and national registers would be a fitting tribute to one of our greatest athletes of all time."
An announcement is to take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Architectural Building at Temple University at 13th and Norris streets.
Dennis Playdon, an adjunct professor of architecture, had just started teaching a class in architectural preservation at Temple last fall, when, while driving to school one day, he noticed the gym was for sale. He would later learn the asking price was about $1 million.
"I got alarmed, because I was quite a fan of Joe Frazier's," Playdon said Tuesday. He said his students were shocked when Frazier died a few months later as they were researching the history of the building and Frazier's life.
The students nominated the building as a historic site to the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Their success there got the attention of the National Trust.
Playdon's students are continuing to work to nominate the gym for the city's Register of Historic Places.
Under the law, any citizen can nominate a building as a historic site, whether the owner agrees or not, the professor said.