The Sly Stallone Boxing Hall of Fame Debate… Rocky, Rocky, Rocky!

December 15, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

“Yo Adrian, he did it!”

Sylvester Stallone will soon be inducted in the Boxing Hall of Fame (BHOF), and I for one am not surprised. In fact, I think it’s about time that the boxing world finally recognized the man who did more than most world champion boxers to epitomize all the best the sport has to offer.

Rocky Balboa, the title character of the film series both written by and starring Stallone, has become one of if not the most iconic figures not just in boxing but the sports world. Stallone’s undeniable contributions to boxing, through the Rocky movie franchise, span decades and have permanently interwoven him into the sport’s history forever. His exclusion from the Hall would be criminal.

More Than a Movie

The name Rocky Balboa is known the world over. It actually transcends the sport of boxing. It is probably safe to assume that more people know the name Rocky Balboa than do the last 15 heavyweight champs.

Don’t believe me? Ask your friends how many of they can name. If they don’t rattle off David Haye, Vitali Klitschko, Nikolay Valuev, Ruslan Chagaev, Samuel Peter, Wladimir Klitschko, Sultan Ibragimov, Shannon Briggs, Oleg Maskaev, Sergei Liakhovich, Hasim Rahman, Lamon Brewster, John Ruiz, Corrie Sanders, and Roy Jones, Jr., don’t be shocked because they are not exactly household names. I would be shocked if most not diehard fight boxing fans could name more than two (Roy Jones, Jr. being the gimmee).

But it becomes a very different story if you ask them, “Who beat Apollo Creed or Ivan Drago?” because I’m willing to bet they know exactly who accomplished those feats.

For many red blooded American males like myself, the Rocky movies served as our introduction to the sport of boxing. Long before I ever owned a copy of Mike Tyson’s Punchout, worked my first heavy bag, or bought my first pay-per-view fight, I was running up stairs pretending to be the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa. Like me, whole generations of sports fans grew up with Rocky as well. While I was saddened when I learned that real boxing matches usually don’t end with a dramatic rope climbing scene (like in Rocky II) the Rocky movies fostered a spark of hope within me – and I’m sure others like me – that would keep them coming back to boxing in hopes of one day seeing a remarkable knockout or dramatic finish like the ones Stallone brought to the screen.

But more importantly than just being a pop culture icon, Sylvester Stallone helped keep the sport alive in a time when boxing needed a hero. With the revolving door of champions failing to fill the “unfillable” shoes of Muhammed Ali, Rocky kept the sport alive. He kept interest up and brought new fans to the sport during a time when its popularity was waning. Stallone’s Rocky was there to carry the torch until another electrifying champion, Mike Tyson, revitalized the sport’s popularity in the mid 1980s.

Rocky was more than just a movie. It was a truly special film. It merged Slyvester Stallone’s identity with that of Rocky Balboa forever. It was a film that’s lasting legacy benefited the sport of boxing immeasurably, and the man responsible for those films has every right to be recognized alongside the greatest in the sport he immortalized.

Yo, Who You Callin’ A Bum?

Some critics mistakenly think that Stallone’s inclusion into the Hall somehow cheapens or disgraces the sport of boxing. This claim is completely ludicrous! Look no further than the rest of this year’s induction class to understand that is not the case.

This year boxing bad boy “Iron” Mike Tyson will join Stallone in receiving the sport’s top honor. While Stallone is far from squeaky clean himself, in comparison with Tyson he comes out smelling like a rose. Tyson, while no doubt a record-breaking undisputed champion, has a legacy marred by high profile screw-ups and controversy. If a convicted rapist who was once disqualified for biting off a portion of his opponent’s ear doesn’t hurt the legacy of the Boxing Hall of Fame, then certainly the inclusion of the Italian Stallion won’t hurt either.

It is not unheard of for sports announcers and broadcaster to be honored by their franchise and hall of fames for contributions to their respective sports, and Stallone’s impact on boxing can be characterized as having eclipsed that of others in the aforementioned professions. So why deny him this honor by the BHOF?

Although, I’m sure plenty of Rocky fans probably supported the decision to put Stallone in the hall it is important to remember that this decision was not made by the fans. Instead this was a heavily weighed decision made by the Boxing Writers Association of America. They had every right to exclude him if they thought he truly didn’t belong, but they didn’t. They recognized that Stallone belongs, and so should we.

As I square off against toe to toe against Loyal Homer in the ring of intellectual debate, it won’t be pretty. Like Clubber Lang, my prediction for this fight is PAIN. And though Loyal Homer and I may be friends, I’ll hold nothing back because in the words of Ivan Drago, “I must break you!”

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