As someone from Philly, I love Rocky. Every time I’m at a game and they play the Rocky song (Gonna Fly Now), I get a special kind of hyped. The blood starts pumping. There’s a tingle in my toes. I start punching frozen meat. The franchise will always be one of the greatest stories to take place in Philadelphia. However, and you might want to sit down for this, the Rocky story is not real.
Philadelphia has one of the richest boxing histories in the country, and the one boxer that everyone associates with our great city is not a legend like Joe Frazier or Bernard Hopkins, but a movie character.
The Rocky Statue was commissioned by Sylvester Stallone before the filming of Rocky III in 1982. Stallone then had it installed on top of the famous Philadelphia Art Museum steps. In the years that followed, representatives of the Art Museum had the statue moved to the a grassy patch to the right of the bottom of the steps, before eventually moving the statue outside of the Spectrum (RIP in peace) because the piece was not art but instead a “movie prop.” The statue was then moved back to the grassy patch by the city in 2006 with former Mayor Street declaring it one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.
I’ve seen every single Rocky movies multiple times – including Rocky V which (spoiler alert) literally ends with him fighting his would-be protege Tommy Gunn in the streets of South Philly in front a television crew. In Rocky IV, Rocky gives an all-time great speech after Defeating Ivan Drago in Moscow on Christmas day simultaneously avenging Apollo Creed’s memory and pretty much ending the Cold War. Less than a year later he’s having a street brawl with a teenager while neglecting his young son who is dying for fatherly affection. Wild stuff.
The Rocky movies tell great stories, but they do this city’s rich boxing history a great disservice. Joe Frazier, an Olympic Gold Medalist in 1964, Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1970-1973, and Muhammad Ali’s #1 rival, only had a tiny plaque underneath the 52nd St. stop of the Market/Frankford Line for 40 years before he was recognized with a statute in front of “Xfinity Live!” the huge drink hall located in the heart of the Stadium Complex.
Having the Rocky statue in such a prominent position in the city subtracts from this city’s very real boxing history. This is why I propose moving the statue from the Art Museum and replacing it with a statue of another Philadelphia son, Bernard Hopkins. More specifically the sculpture will depict him knocking out Oscar De La Hoya. This way, we can show we are a city that celebrates our real-life heroes before fictional ones. The city could also promote a local artist by commissioning him/her to create the sculpture. It’s a win-win for the city!
I’m not advocating destroying the Rocky Statue completely (even that’s the “in” thing to do these days), but instead moving it within the city. When in the city of Philadelphia, the Rocky movies primarily take place in South Philadelphia. If you watch the training montage from the original Rocky that ends with him climbing the steps, you’ll notice that most of the scenes take place in South Philadelphia (Italian Market, Mickey’s Gym, the Meat Freezer, etc). The statue should be moved to the Italian Market, as it is truly the section of the city represented in Rocky. With the move, tourists could now visit the Rocky Statue in the Philadelphia portrayed by the movies.
In the same breath, the prime real estate that is outside of the Art Museum is perfect for spreading the history of an absolute legend in Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins’ boxing career spanned 20 years which included him being named IBF Middle-Weight Champion for over 10 years, and the undisputed Middle-Weight Champion of the World from 2001-2005. During his reign as undisputed champ and pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, Hopkins defended the title 7 times with his last win coming as a 9th round knockout against the heralded Oscar De La Hoya- the subject of my proposed sculpture.
All I’m saying is moving the Rocky statue from the Art Museum to the Italian Market only makes sense. The Art Museum, could replace the “movie prop” with a commissioned sculpture, tourists would get a more authentic Rocky experience when visiting the statue, and the story of a true Philly boxing great would be amplified. It’s only fair for a city with such a rich boxing history that the actual history not be confused with the story told in theaters. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.