How people forgot the real-life 'Rocky,' Joe Frazier
Thursday marks the second anniversary of the passing of boxing legend, and Philly icon, Joe Frazier.
He should be the most recognizable fighter from a city that has produced its fair share, but that title belongs to Rocky Balboa, a fictional character who has become synonymous with Philadelphia.
Dave Zirin laid out quite a compelling argument on SportsOnEarth.com as to how Frazier has been overshadowed - wrongfully - by Rocky:
Nov. 7 marks the two-year anniversary of the death of former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier and the more I read about his life, the more two things become obvious:
1) Joe Frazier is, without question, the real Rocky Balboa.
2) Joe Frazier is also the most unlikely sports icon in the history of this country. His biography is in fact so unbelievable, his stardom so unlikely, that it makes Rocky look like he was born with a damn silver spoon in his mouth.
Let me explain…
First, on the Rocky comparison. From the mean streets of Philly, to the humid gyms, to the freezing slaughterhouse, to the loping, punching style, to the family life, to the nemesis with the fast mouth, faster hands and wicked charisma, the fictional character could have easily been based on Frazier, with Apollo Creed playing the part of the de-politicized Muhammad Ali. Now, it's long been Hollywood lore that a boxer named Chuck Wepner -- who once gave Ali an unexpected hell of a fight -- was the direct inspiration. But Frazier's own iconic fights with Ali were a big influence and the fighter even has a cameo appearance in the first Rocky, almost as if he is haunting the proceedings.
But then the greatest insult of all: Philly, that great boxing, underdog, working class town, puts a statue up of their champion to represent their fighting spirit and it happens to be Rocky, not Frazier. Even worse, they place the statue by the very museum steps where Frazier ran and trained. (Yup, Frazier did that too.)
Zirin then goes in to much more detail about Frazier's rough childhood and all he had to go through to become the greatest real-life boxer in Philadelphia history.
When it comes to Rocky, Frazier should have been that main character, not mearly a cameo.