By Randy De La O
I have a few thoughts on Sylvester Stallone’s recent induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. You can agree or disagree.
I only met Sylvester Stallone once and it was a positive experience for me. It was a few days, almost thirty-five years ago, in January or February of 1976, during the filming of Rocky. It was Rocky that made Stallone into the superstar that he would later become. I didn't know much about him then except that he was the guy that I had seen in “The Lords of Flatbush”. Rocky has since become an iconic figure and part of American Pop Culture, like; Superman, Tarzan, Popeye, Fonzie, Phillip Marlowe or any number of characters that have popped up over the years.
With Rocky, Stallone created a character that best represents the type of fighter that I admire, an underdog, with limited skills, that gives his all in the ring and never stops trying, an honest fighter that knows no other way. For Rocky, it was all about heart. If Jimmy Stewart was “Everyman” than Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky was an “Everyman Fighter”. Most of the guys that have ever stepped into the ring were unheralded, unrecognized and under appreciated. We rooted for Rocky because he was one of us. A regular Joe, someone who just wanted a shot. When I rooted for Rocky I was rooting for myself and the chance that I never got.
I can’t say anything about Stallone’s character after the movie won an Oscar. He became big, really big. I’m sure it affected him, it had to. Still maybe over the years, just like the rest of us, he learned something about himself. I saw him again in 1987, it was at the Alberto Davila vs. Frankie Duarte rematch at the Forum (a great fight, by the way), he was a few rows away from me, sitting with Elton John. People were all around him but he seemed to be a good sport about it all and was smiling for his fans. He happened to look my way and when he did I raised my right hand and said, in my best Philly accent “Hey, Yo Rocky!” He smiled and acknowledged me. He could have ignored me.
There have been other actors that have played boxers on the big screen, most notably, Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta in “The Raging Bull”, Russell Crowe as James J, Braddock in “The Cinderella Man or even Hilary Swank as “The Million Dollar Baby” and Mark Walberg and Christian Bales as brothers Mickey Ward and Dick Eklund in The Fighter” which is being released this weekend, and countless others over the years and it’s not for me to say whether they also deserve an induction or not but what separates Stallone from the rest of them is that for everyone else, it was a role, and then they moved on. For Stallone, he became a life long friend to boxing, trying to find some way to promote boxing, as he did with “The Contender”. Even if you didn’t like the show you still have to admit that Stallone was there swinging away on boxing’s behalf. The continuing saga of Rocky Balboa continued to inspire young men to become boxers. He did for boxing, what Bruce Lee did for Martial Arts. He got people interested again. To be fair, the 1976 Olympic Boxing team also made some noise that year but it takes nothing away from Rocky Balboa.
I don’t know of any other non-boxer that has done more to inspire young men to become boxers, not only across the country but across the world. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard in an interview “It was Rocky, I wanted be a boxer when I saw Rocky”. (I’m paraphrasing)
My brother Dennis worked security for the movie industries years ago. For a few days he provided security for Sylvester Stallone. Dennis only had good things to say about him.
I went to the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s website to see just what he was inducted for. He was inducted as an observer, nothing more. He is not being recognized as a fighter. His is a non-participatory induction, that’s fitting, I don’t have problem with that. I don’t know what there reasoning was for selecting Stallone, they didn’t say. I would like to think that it was for the reasons that I stated.
Sylvester Stallone and I at the old Main Street Gym in Los Angeles.
Trainer Pat Ruggiero on the right.