PHILADEPHIA -- Bernard Hopkins drove south on Broad Street on Tuesday morning, breezing past Joe Frazier's old boxing gym, which has been turned into a discount furniture store.
The gym at North Broad Street and Glenwood Avenue, where Hopkins' uncle took him when he was 9 years old, now advertises "knockout prices." The brick-walled first floor -- where Hopkins and many Philadelphia boxers learned the craft -- is a showroom of couches and bureaus.
Hopkins, the oldest world champion in boxing history at 49, plans to alter the building's future as early as next spring when the current lease ends. That will allow Hopkins and "some big investors" to purchase the property and turn it into a community center.
"It's Joe Frazier's gym. It's a landmark. It should never be torn down, it should never be disrespected," Hopkins said. "And I'm not into idol worshipping, but this is a place where it can be used for good."
Frazier sold the gym in 2008, three years before his death from liver cancer. The property was listed in April 2013 on the National Register of Historic Places in large part because of the efforts of a Temple University instructor and his architecture students. The historical status helps preserve the building, which was opened as a warehouse in 1895.
The Urban Land Initiative conducted a study on the property and released a report in July. The 11-member panel said the "property could succeed if owned by a philanthropic individual or organization that would invest in the necessary renovations." A Boys & Girls Club representative told the panel that the club could be interested. Hopkins was also interviewed by the panel.
Hopkins owns several investment properties in the city but he said Frazier's gym would be "the best investment" because of what it would mean to North Philadelphia. It will not just be a boxing gym, Hopkins said, but a community center that emphasizes a healthy lifestyle.
"I would be the face and Joe would be the legacy," Hopkins said.
Hopkins said his inspiration is the Nicetown Boys & Girls Club that was restored in 2011 with funding from then-Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino. Frazier's gym, Hopkins said, will fall under the city's Department of Recreation. Michael DiBeradinis, the city's deputy mayor for environmental and community resources, said he was not aware of any plans pertaining to Frazier's gym.
The lease on Frazier's gym is scheduled to expire a few months after the expected unveiling of a statue of Frazier at Xfinity Live in South Philadelphia. Hopkins and his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, contributed $200,000 in April for the completion of the statue.
"It's a homage that you pay to individuals," Hopkins said. "Whether you were privileged to meet him or privileged to talk to him, you pay homage, man. It's respect. We lost the respect of the founders that laid the path for the Hopkinses and Floyd Mayweathers."
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