Rocky Balboa has triumphed against seemingly insurmountable odds many times. But I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
Sylvester Stallone, creator of boxing’s most recognizable figure of the past 30 years (despite being fictional), has been honored as one of the newest inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
There are many people out there like Loyal Homer who feel that this honor is not deserved. They do not deny the cultural impact that the series of Rocky films has, but there have been many great movies about sports. From The Natural to The Mighty Ducks, sports films make for one of the great film genres. That does not necessarily mean that Robert Redford and Emilio Esteves should receive similar inductions.
In many senses, I agree with that sentiment. The idea that Matt LeBlanc could receive Cooperstown honors for his role as sidekick to a baseball playing monkey in the film Ed is ludicrous. But I am awarding this verdict to Babe Ruthless for pointing out a very critical piece of information – it is Sylvester Stallone, not Rocky, that is receiving induction. Stallone’s contributions to the sport of boxing greatly supersede simply producing a movie.
In many ways, Stallone has been as influential in promoting the sport of boxing as Don King, Bob Arum, Lou DiBella, and many other promoters over the years. As Babe Ruthless mentions, Stallone’s creation of Rocky helped attract maintain fan interest during a transition period when legends like Muhammad Ali were making their exit from the sport.
If we were talking about the MLB or NFL, that contribution may not have meant much. Those organizations have been able to maintain consistent growth without any outside help. But boxing is not in the same successful boat as professional baseball or football. Boxing has been struggling desperately for many years, and is starved for real, sustainable publicity.
Sure, guys like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and Roy Jones, Jr. did their part to keep boxing relevant, but who has stepped up to carry the torch since their exit from the game? Names like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and Joe Calzaghe have simply not been enough to sustain the viability of the sport the way that Ali and his counterparts did during boxing’s golden age.
Boxing NEEDED Rocky. You can’t say that about Rudy.
It should also be noted that Stallone’s contributions to the sport of boxing go beyond the Rocky series. He has stayed very close to the sport, including working as producer for The Contender television series, a real-life boxing competition that offers working-class prospects an opportunity to make the leap into boxing stardom. That program has helped to launch the careers of several world-class fighters, including Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora, who went on to claim the WBC Super Welterweight World Championship.
Movie characters do not belong in sports’ halls of fame, but Stallone is not a movie character. His professional career as a Hollywood star should not be considered a black mark against him when you are considering the invaluable contributions he has made to the sport of boxing.
Congratulations, Sly, on receiving the honor of being named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It is well-deserved!