"When I work with kids," says the Philadelphia evangelist, "I
want them to know that they can be successful, that they can be
achievers, that they can be champions--without necessarily being
a Muhammad Ali or a Sugar Ray Leonard or a Joe Frazier. Not
everyone can be a Joe Frazier."
With that, the preacher, Marvis Frazier, sighs the great sigh of
truth. Not everyone can be a Joe Frazier--not even his son, even
though Marvis graced the SI cover above as, alas, the Second
Coming. "People always ask what it was like growing up in the
shadow of my father," says Marvis, now 36. "I always thought of
it as standing in a great light."
If that's the case, then the incandescence often seemed way too
hot. Marvis was a good heavyweight who, thanks to Dad, received
a hundred times the attention of comparable fighters. So with a
steady jab, quick hands and the protruding family chin, Marvis,
56-2 as an amateur, turned pro in 1980 expecting to win a
championship. "That was my goal," says Marvis, who lives in
Philadelphia with his wife, Daralyn, and two daughters, Tamyra,
13, and Tiara, 11. "Ever since my father's third fight with Ali
[the Thrilla in Manila, which Joe lost by a 14th-round TKO], I
had wanted to bring the title back to the family."
It never happened. Though he went 19-2 as a pro, Marvis is best
remembered as the man whom Larry Holmes (1983) and Mike Tyson
('86) beat nearly senseless in 2:57 and 30 seconds,
respectively. "The Bible talks about all things working for
those who love God," he says. "If God's purpose for Marvis
Frazier was to be heavyweight champion of the world, it would
have happened. He chose a different path for me." In addition to
preaching at Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, Marvis helps
train fighters at Joe Frazier's Gym.
Marvis is also studying at the Center for Urban Theological
Studies in Philadelphia and hopes to get a master's in theology.
Just as it is for a heavyweight, dedication, he says, is the key
for the scholar. When he talks, Marvis often quotes stories from
Scripture, ranging from that of David and Goliath to that of the
Last Supper. "You may not get that car, you may not get that
promotion. Hey, you may get knocked out by Mike Tyson," he says.
"But when God mixes our lives up, he makes sure to put some good
in there as well. Right now, my life is full of the good."