Last week’s post talked about some of the greatest boxing movies ever made. Of course the 1976 movie Rocky was mentioned because it is without a doubt one of the best ever. Much praise should go to Sylvester Stallone for his writing of and acting in that film. It is interesting that since the Apollo Creed character is based on Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier is a walk on character in the movie. He walks by the boxing ring where Rocky and Apollo are about to fight and Creed gestures at Smokin’ Joe badgering him with “You’re next, Joe” over and over. It was a nice little touch in a film that has many. Unfortunately a few of the other nice little touches do not give credit where credit is due. For example, several of the memorable character traits of Rocky Balboa are patterned directly after Joe Frazier. Who can forget Rocky pounding the sides of beef at the meat packing plant? Joe Frazier worked at just such a plant in his early days as a fighter and spent his spare time there walloping sides of beef. And how about Rocky’s inspirational early morning runs through the streets of Philadelphia, climaxed by his dash up the steps of Independence Hall? A typical routine of Smokin’ Joe, including the rush up the steps of that famous building. Joe even took his dog with him just as Rocky does in the movie. It is almost as though Stallone observed the real life boxer, Smokin’ Joe in action and then wrote his movie character Rocky Balboa to be just like him. Even the city he chose as Rocky’s home (Philly), Rocky being a southpaw (Joe Frazier was not, but his best punch was his left hook), and his opponent (Apollo Creed /aka/ Muhammad Ali) were all just too coincidental.
Of course, Rocky’s goal was only to be the first to ever go the distance against the Muhammad Ali like Apollo Creed while Joe Frazier, who was undefeated himself, planned to beat Ali and did so in their 1971 “Fight of the Century”.
In some ways it is almost a matter of fiction surpassing real life in the minds of the general public. Like when a sports writer listed Roy Hobbs of the movie “The Natural” in a column about the greatest baseball players of all time, imaginary boxer Rocky Balboa is almost a bigger legend than the real life boxing hero Joe Frazier. What could be greater evidence of this “history stood on its head” than the fact that in Philadelphia, which is the spiritual home of boxing, there is a monument to that great American boxer… Rocky Balboa, while Joe Frazier’s gym, once the heart of America’s spiritual boxing home is now occupied by a used furniture store.
“Yah well” as the Amish would say, “be careful out among them english”. Until next time, Jamie
PS. Marvis, a man devoid of hard feelings, says that “Rocky” is one of his favorite boxing movies.