During the official unveiling of the Rocky Balboa statue, which proudly stands at the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Art, actor Sylvester Stallone, who portrayed the popular character in six films, addressed fans and media by saying, “This statue here is not about me. It’s about you. Because believe me. Inside of everyone one of you, lives a real Rocky!”
Not too far away from those famous steps; the same stairs that Balboa climbed to the top of to raise his two clenched fists in victory; lived a real Philadelphia fighter.
A fighter, who made the City of Brotherly Love his adopted home; a fighter, who was a hero, not only locally, but also to his country, by capturing a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics. A fighter, who had to overcome the odds of poverty, the civil rights movement, and “Uncle Tom” accusations from his own people. A fighter, who represents the end results of all things that the history of Philadelphia was built upon. Hard work. Dedication. Passion. Internal fortitude. Thus facing bigger adversities than what Rocky could ever experience to become the heavyweight champion of the world. And his story is for real.
Since “Smokin’” Joe Frazier died of liver cancer on November 7th, there’s been a push for him to be honored by his hometown with a statue. During Frazier’s funeral service on Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson stated, “We need a memorial to Joe in Philadelphia. We need to tell the children about Joe. Tell them that Rocky was not a champion. Joe deserves a statue in downtown [Philadelphia].”
Current WBC Light Heavyweight champ, Bernard Hopkins, also a Philly native stated, “There’s no way in the world you should come to Philadelphia and not recognize who Joe Frazier is. That’s what cities do to show appreciation” and committed to paying for the statue himself, provided someone finds a location.
The unveiling of the Rocky statue took place on September 8, 2006 and earlier this year, Stallone was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. So within the past five years, Rocky has been immortalized in bronze and has a presence in boxing’s most coveted retiree home. Frazier was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 and 21 years later still does not have his own statue.
If and when a memorial for Frazier is finally displayed, unfortunately, unlike Stallone, he won’t be able to attend its unveiling ceremony. Hopkins added, “You know what the really sad day is going to be? It’s going to be the day they put up that statue and Joe won’t be able to touch it.”
I admittedly, enjoy and own the entire DVD collection of the Rocky movie series. So by no means am I “picking a fight” with the Italian Stallion. Frazier was a supporter of the Stallone film as well.
While filming Rocky in the city, the producers put a call out to all heavyweight champions to come make an appearance in the movie and ironically, the only boxer to show and make a cameo would be “Smokin’” Joe.
Stallone even borrowed the meat punching bag scene from Frazier, who once worked in a slaughterhouse and pounded huge slabs of beef in the freezer.
But the City of Brotherly Love has shown love to other real fighters in the past. Pugilist, Joey Giardello, the former middleweight titleholder from 1963 to 1965 was honored with his own statue in May (Frazier held the heavyweight championship belt from 1970 to 1973) that stands at the East Passyunk crossing of South Philadelphia. Giardello died in 2008.
This is simply just another foul to the already long list of violations that Frazier has received from unappreciative fans, media, and city over his illustrious career. Perhaps Stallone’s speech should have been rephrased to “Inside all of us and Rocky Balboa; lived a real “Smokin’” Joe Frazier!”