There have been a few debates between boxing fans since the news broke that 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone was nominated for induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. But in general, I don’t think too many people really care about it, other than those who are dead against it. As usual, the most passionate voices belong to those who disagree with things.
I don’t really see what the big deal is regarding Stallone’s impending induction alongside some of the sport’s immortal characters. It’s not like he’s being compared to Muhammad Ali or anything. He’s simply going to be inducted into the category he fits in, which is the observer’s category for print and media journalists, publishers, writers, historians, photographers and artists.
I’ve already read that some people feel it’s an insult to real boxers who put their lives on the line every time they step into the ring. They mention Stallone’s an actor who portrays a fictitious character and his inclusion is a joke. But isn’t that the exact reason why the Boxing Hall of Fame has five different categories, so guys like Stallone can be recognized for their contributions to the sport, even though they never fought?
There are three categories for boxers, one for non-participants, such as promoters and trainers, and then the observer section, which is where Stallone will be entered. If there’s room for Don King, Stallone and his Rocky character shouldn’t ruffle too many feathers.
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Stallone’s claim to boxing fame, of course, is his portrayal of underdog boxer Rocky ‘The Italian Stallion’ Balboa in six movies over the past 35 years. And regardless of whether you like Stallone, his acting, writing, directing, or the films in general, Rocky is an American cultural icon and a part of the country’s history. Just about every walking, talking American over the age of 15 knows who the character is and can relate to him.
The American public instantly gravitated to the story of the down-and-out underdog who defies all odds in the boxing ring to become world heavyweight champion. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations when it hit the silver screen in 1976 and won Oscars for Best Director, Best Film Editing, and most important of all: Best Picture. Stallone received nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Writer. The film spawned five successful follow-ups with Stallone playing Balboa in all of them.
What impact the films had on the sport of boxing is hard to say, but it sure didn’t hurt it as thousands of kids grew up dreaming of becoming a real life Rocky. Many of today’s boxers say the character and films inspired them. Stallone himself is believed to have based his inspirational character on Rocky Marciano and former heavyweight Chuck ‘The Bayonne Bleeder’ Wepner (35-14-2, 17 KOs), who once fought Muhammad Ali and was credited with a knockdown before being KO’d in the 15th and final round with just 19 seconds to go in the fight.
Let’s not forget Stallone also helped put boxing back in the mainstream media a few years ago when he hosted and produced The Contender reality television show, which has since been copied by other sports. He was also honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which recognized his Lifetime Cinematic Achievement in Boxing in 2006.
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To me, the Rocky movies were full of clichés and were as predictable as tomorrow’s date. They showcased brutal fight scenes, and by that I mean they were so unrealistic they were almost comical. But love or hate Stallone, Rocky Balboa, and the series of movies, there’s nothing wrong at all with inducting him into the Boxing Hall of fame since all of them undoubtedly promoted the sport in their own unique way.