Frazier-Lyde, Jacqui 1961–
Jacqui Frazier-Lyde 1961–
Jacqui Frazier-Lyde is a lawyer with a successful practice and a devoted mother of three children. She speaks Spanish and French and has an understanding of Arabic. She’s a shrewd businesswoman and an upstanding citizen of her native Philadelphia. She also knows how to duck and jab and throw a right hook that would knock the wind out of most women half her age. As a professional boxer, she has scored a series of knockouts and helped put women’s boxing on the road to respectability. There is one word to explain the contradictions she embodies: Frazier. Jacqui Frazier-Lyde is the daughter of boxing great Smokin’ Joe Frazier. At the unlikely age of 38 Frazier the younger decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a professional boxer.
Born Jacquelyn Frazier on December 2, 1961, Frazier-Lyde moved from Beaufort, South Carolina, with her family to Philadelphia when she was just four. With her mother Florence, father Joe, brother Marvis and sister Natasha, she grew up in Philadelphia but continued to visit Beaufort during summers. There she enjoyed working with her hands and knew how to change oil and repair brakes by the time she was 13. “I wanted to be a mechanic,” she told Philadelphia People. In high school she directed her energies into sports instead of shop and excelled in basketball, hockey, lacrosse and softball. Not content to just score on the field, Frazier-Lyde also snagged the role of class president and was voted Best Personality and Most Likely to Succeed.
Frazier-Lyde’s prowess as an athlete scored her a scholarship to American University in Washington D. C. where she majored in Justice and learned Spanish and French. She continued her higher education by earning a juris doctorate in 1998 from Villanova University in Pennsylvania. In the years following graduation she practiced law and soon founded her own law firm, Frazier-Lyde and Associates, LLC, with offices above her father’s gym in Philadelphia. She also married Peter Lyde and gave birth to three children, Peter Jr., Sable, and John-Joseph. For many women, this would have been enough—successful career, healthy family, devoted husband—but not many women carry the name Frazier.
In October of 1999 Laila Ali, daughter of boxing legend and Frazier’s main opponent Muhammad Ali, made her professional boxing debut. Women’s boxing was just
At a Glance…
Born Jacquelyn Frazier on December 2, 1961; parents: Joe Frazier and Florence Frazier; married: Peter Lyde; children, Peter Jr., Sable, John-Joseph. Education: American University, B.A. in Justice; Villanova University, Law Degree, 1989.
Career: Practices law with her own firm, Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde and Associates LLC; turned professional boxer in 2000; most famous fight: with Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, June 2001.
Addresses: Home —Philadelphia, PA; Mailing— 917 North Broad St., Ste. 201, Philadelphia, PA 19132-2402. (215) 225-1193.
beginning to garner public interest and with a name like Ali, Laila was bound to draw the spotlight. Following Ali’s boxing debut, the media frenzy ensued. Every angle of women’s boxing was pursued. Experts debated the value and sportsmanship of the event. A once dismissed sport was finally in the national spotlight. One foresighted reporter, boxing expert Bernard Hernandez, decided to play up the “daughters of boxing greats” angle and called up Frazier-Lyde at her law firm in Philadelphia. “[He] asked me how I thought I would measure up to Laila,” she told CBS News, “I just said—it just came out—‘Oh I could whip her butt’.” With those few words, a mother and lawyer turned herself into a boxer and a fighter. “Since that day I’ve been training two hours a day, every day, at my dad’s gym.”
With characteristic ferocity, Frazier-Lyde quickly made her decision to become a professional boxer a reality. She got herself a team of trainers, including brother Marcus and many Philadelphia-based professional boxers. Just three months after that fateful phone call, she applied for her professional boxing license, and in four months she was stepping into the ring as a professional boxer. Frazier-Lyde enjoyed the support of her family, with her husband stepping in as promoter and her brother as trainer; however, father Joe, was a bit more hesitant. Jet printed Frazier’s comment on Frazier-Lyde’s decision to become a boxer, “You get your head shook, your money took, and your name in the undertaker’s book.” However, it wouldn’t be long before her father threw his support and respect behind her and even joined her training team.
With the ring name of Sister Smoke, ironically given to her years earlier by Muhammad Ali, Frazier-Lyde made her boxing debut in February of 2000. Not only did she knock out her opponent in one round, she also scored the largest purse ever for a professional woman boxer’s debut—a whopping $25,000. This figure immediately started the critics speculating that Frazier-Lyde was in boxing only for the publicity and attendant dollar signs. They accused her of using her father’s legacy for marketing and hype. The fact that the company promoting the fights, SoReal Communications, was owned by Frazier-Lyde and her husband only added fuel to the controversy. Frazier-Lyde responded by telling Philadelphia People, “I’m not in this for the fame or the money. I’m in it for the history and the competition of the game.”
Still, boxing experts loudly questioned her motives as illustrated by Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reidel who wrote, “[Frazier-Lyde didn’t start boxing until last year, after she saw Ali doing it and a great big dollar sign flashed before her eyes.” Her arrogant attitude also discredited her in the critic’s eyes. She told Jet just a month before her pro debut, “I fight in court every day with people who are not the nicest…. Boxing? That is easy compared to who I really have to fight.” Frazier-Lyde mostly dismisses this criticism as recorded by www.blackvoices.com, “A lot of people in the boxing business are not all that happy with women boxers. Too bad. They weren’t too happy about the WBA (Women’s Basketball Association) or the women’s soccer team. They were trailblazers. I am a trailblazer.” Though critics still question her motives and credibility, no one can question the dedication she has shown in training and in the ring.
Between February of 2000 and March of 2001, Frazier-Lyde fought and won seven fights. Though critics derided Frazier-Lyde’s opponents as unskilled hacks, her trajectory along the boxing path often seemed nothing more than a way to get to Laila Ali. From the onset of her boxing career, Frazier-Lyde called for a fight with Ali. She claimed to want to have the fifteenth round of the “Thrilla in Manila,” the famed 1975 fight between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali that ended in the fourteenth round with a loss for Frazier. Jet quoted Frazier-Lyde discussing a bout with Ali, “It’s about history, competition, family and legacy.” Still the businesswoman, she didn’t ignore the financial windfall such a fight could create, both for her and Ali. In an oft-quoted remark Frazier-Lyde said, “[The fight] would establish Laila financially, then I would establish her horizontally.” Through it all, Laila, unlike her verbose father, kept quiet on the matter.
Amid fanfare and media spotlights the Frazier-Ali rematch was scheduled for June 9, 2001 at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY. As the hype built up, so did the criticism. Of the fight, Jay Larkin, senior VP of event programming at Showtime told New York’s Daily News, “It has nothing to do with sports. It’s a spectacle that has appealed to the paparazzi mentality.” He continued, criticizing Frazier-Lyde: “Jacqui Frazier has zero ability. Women’s boxing has a hard enough time gaining credibility. This isn’t going to help.” Still others criticized the profit motive behind the bout. However, Ali and Frazier-Lyde’s respective husbands didn’t see a problem, as they co-promoted the event.
Both women entered the fight with perfect records behind them, Ali with eight wins, zero losses; Frazier-Lyde with seven wins, zero losses. However, there the similarities ended. Frazier-Lyde was nearly fifteen years older than Ali and had been fighting for far less time than Ali. The public perception of the two women also greatly varied. Ali was viewed as a seasoned professional, while Frazier-Lyde was decried as a publicity hound who had only stepped up to the ring to make money by exploiting her last name. Critics pointed to Frazier-Lyde’s short career and the cavalier attitude that propelled her into boxing. Aficionados of women boxing were angered that Frazier-Lyde seemed to be making a spectacle of a sport they revered, while critics of women’s boxing used the fight as an example for what is wrong with the sport. As the fight ensued, many of those critics changed their minds.
With a crowd of over 7,000 people in attendance and tens of thousands more watching on pay-per-view, Ali and Frazier-Lyde entered the ring. They went after each other with the ferocity all the hype had promised. The true rivalry between the Ali’s and Frazier’s played out on the mat. They met each other blow for blow. Frazier-Lyde proved to be a wild card. Mid-fight, just as it looked as if Ali had beaten Frazier-Lyde down, Sister Smoke came barreling back, drawing on a wellspring of energy many compared to her father’s. After eight grueling rounds, Ali bleeding from the nose, Frazier-Lyde with a swollen eye, the final bell rang, and the judges ruled Ali the winner by a close margin.
Though Frazier-Lyde had lost her bout with Ali, she had gained a lot. Critics began to change their minds about her. “That a 39-year-old woman could come back the way Jacqui did is really something,” Al Bernstein, longtime ESPN boxing commentator told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Laila is more skilled but she nailed Jacqui with punches and Jacqui kept coming.” Boxing Hall-of-Fame inductee Emanuel Steward told www.jacquifrazier.com, “If Jacqui was slightly more fine tuned, she’d have won the fight but even now she’s won my respect by fighting so hard.”
The bout also brought new respect to the sport of women’s boxing. Bernstein told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Both women showed grit and determination. They are in the embryonic stages of their boxing careers, sure, but they gave it everything they had and you can’t ask for much more than that.” Fightnews.com called the fight, “so wild and thrilling that even the staunchest opponent of women’s boxing couldn’t possibly deny the excitement.” Though many critics, including other professional women boxers still dismiss the fight as a media farce, no one can deny that the brawl between the Frazier-Ali brought unprecedented attention to the oft-misunderstood sport. It put women’s boxing on the front page of newspapers around the world and padded the pockets of both Ali and Frazier nicely. Early in her short career Frazier-Lyde told The Detroit News, “I want to be a positive influence on this sport.” With the publicity she brings to the sport she is sure to draw more young women into it, helping women’s boxing to gain acceptance from sports critics and fans alike.
The Hartford Courant, June 6, 2001.
Jet, January 10, 2000, pg 52.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 2001; June 9, 2001.
Philadelphia People, June 9, 2001.
USAToday, June 6, 2001.
www.phillynews.com (June 7, 2001; June 9, 2001).
www.usatoday.com, (June 6, 2001).
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