Where are they now? Jacqui Frazier-Lyde’s journey from women’s basketball to boxing and the judiciary
Looking back at the career of one of AU’s most accomplished athletes
During her time at American University from 1979 to 1983, Jacqui Frazier-Lyde was a top-scoring basketball player, becoming the first woman in school history to score over 1,000 points. The star guard finished the 1981-82 season with 72 steals, which was good for second place on the AU leaderboard at the time. She is currently ranked 14th on AU women’s basketball all-time scoring list.
Frazier-Lyde grew up in Philadelphia and was a multi-sport athlete at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, playing basketball, hockey, lacrosse and softball, according to the Women Boxing Archive Network. She channeled her efforts into basketball entering college, and though she continued her basketball career at AU, neither her academic nor her athletic career ended after her graduation.
After graduating from AU in 1983, Frazier-Lyde went on to earn a law degree from Villanova University in 1989. In 2000, at the age of 38, Frazier-Lyde decided to follow in the footsteps of her father, Joe Frazier, and became a professional boxer. In no uncertain terms, she switched to the sport to fight Laila Ali and continue the decades-old family rivalry between their fathers.
Her boxing career only lasted four years, but in that time she became a legend in the ring, earning the nickname “Sister Smoke,” reminiscent of her father’s nickname “Smokin’ Joe,” and concluded with a final record of 13 wins and one loss. She viewed boxing as a match of intelligence and power, and hoped fans saw it as more than just “two chicks throwing some punches,” according to the Women Boxing Archive Network. She viewed every fight as a chance to show her strength and ability.
In June 2001, her match against Ali finally arrived. It was the only loss of her entire career, and the scores were so close that some officials almost considered it a draw. This fight put women’s boxing on display for the public more than any other fight before -- it even made the cover of TV Guide in the United States. Throughout her career, but especially in this fight, Frazier-Lyde showed determination to win fights using power and intelligence.
“I have power and she has power,” Frazier-Lyde said in a previous fight against Norma Galloway, according to the Women Boxing Archive Network. “I just did a better job setting mine up. You have to set your power up if you want to be successful.”
But boxing was not the end of her impressive legacy. In 2004, she competed in her last professional fight and quickly pivoted to a career in the judiciary. Upon her retirement, Frazier-Lyde was one of the best female boxers on the East Coast. But it was clear that she had big dreams in the judicial world, and wanted to pursue them.
"I know they [her brother and father] were happy with me being a lawyer, but why can't I do both, and many other things too?” Frazier-Lyde said of her retirement, according to the New York Post. She later continued, “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."
After her boxing career came to an end, Frazier-Lyde continued to chase her dreams, using her AU criminal justice degree and her law degree from Villanova University to further her career as a lawyer. Her work includes advocating for youth mentorship in the criminal justice field. She has been a judge in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia since 2007, and continues to be a leader in her community.
In terms of her legacy in the boxing world, Frazier-Lyde’s fight against Laila Ali is still one of the most iconic fights in women’s boxing history, and in 2014, Frazier-Lyde was the first woman to be inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame.