"Don’t Give That Sucker No Statue…”
The headline is drawn from a memorable Clubber Lang quote from Rocky III, when the rising challenger spoils the unveiling of the Rocky Balboa statue in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum. This past weekend, I was wondering if Clubber was going to protest another great “Rocky” moment.
On Sunday, Sylvester Stallone was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. His enshrinement has already drawn the ire of some boxing purists. One longtime boxing media member I spoke to over the weekend simply said “What a joke” when referring to Stallone’s induction. He had a point, under the simple premise that Stallone has never thrown a “real” punch. So if Mr.T showed up to call Stallone out, he would have been making a solid point this time.
The hardcore boxing types could be heard making a minor stink when the news of Stallone’s addition to the latest class was announced. Yet it seems the diehard opponents of Rocky Balboa in the Hall have mostly gone unnoticed and overlooked. To be fair, Stallone was not put in a wing with actual boxers. There’s no question that his films have done a lot for the sport. Surely, many young men have been inspired to pursue boxing careers after seeing a Rocky film or two. Also, the series of films paid much homage to boxing history (Joe Frazier’s cameo in the first film was a great touch) and Stallone has always claimed his series helped showcase the issues many real fighters face.
Look, I may not be the best authority on how the films have affected the sport in a positive way. I have not regularly followed boxing in many years. But I am fan of past eras, and I know that the first film was inspired by the story of Chuck Wepner. To me, that is when boxing was truly compelling. When you had great fighters such as Ken Norton, George Foreman in the 70s, Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard. The Rocky films captured the iconic qualities of the great fighters of eras gone by. Surely, an Apollo Creed could not command the attention of a nation the way he supposedly did back before he met Balboa.
I absolutely love the Rocky films, and I am still not over the death of Apollo, which nearly ruined the fourth film for me. I saw the third movie so many times I can quote it line for line. I saw the latest installment the first night it hit the theaters. I still get chills every time I see the training montage from the second film. It may be the single greatest inspirational piece of film I have ever witnessed. Whenever one of those films shows up on my TV these days, my e-mails pile up and people get frustrated because they cannot get in touch with me. Leave me alone, Apollo’s ribs are broken and he is spitting up blood. Rocky’s got him on the ropes!
Yes, there is no question the Rocky saga is one of the greatest film series of all times. I cannot think of another series of sports films that has been so-well loved in all my years. I could sell anyone on its merits. Heck, I even liked the fifth one. Watching Sly’s son take on a pair of bullies was just as much fun as watching Rocky topple Clubber. Plus, that damn Tommy Gunn got what was coming to him!
But as much as we all love it, does an actor and filmmaker really belong in a sports Hall of Fame? I want to say yes, because I would just like to tell Stallone once what an impact he has had on my life. Yes, I know he hears that from a million people, but so what? I root for Stallone even when he isn’t playing Rocky. I want him to win.
But the sporting purist in me says Sly does not belong in a Boxing Hall of Fame. If he does, then Robert Redford and Charlie Sheen should be on baseball ballots, right? Kevin Costner surely deserves his shot. Should the NASCAR Hall of Fame consider Tom Cruise, and maybe even Will Ferrell?
My love for the Rocky movies is so deep, it’s hard for me to say anything against it. But I believe Hall of Fame inductions should be for those who truly made a real difference in the real sport. I can’t see where Stallone has done that, but I am open to views on how I may be missing something. Still, I feel that while Stallone is a Hall of Famer, he may have been honored in the wrong venue this week.
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