JUNE 1, 1981
"When 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 lighters. 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 light 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."