Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WBC Head Sulaiman Commits To Rocky Statue Money

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—There will be no confusion between a statue in Philadelphia portraying fictional movie character Rocky Balboa and a statue in Brockton depicting “The Punch” by real-life legend and undefeated heavyweight boxing World Champion Rocky Marciano—Brockton’s hometown boy.
During a whirlwind 2-day tour of Brockton, World Boxing Council President Jose Sulaiman gave his personal stamp that a more than 3-year-old proposal to construct a 20-foot or taller statue in memory of Rocky Marciano that has been slowed and almost stalled will be completed and paid for by the WBC and, if all goes well, be ready for a Sept. 1, 2012 dedication on what would have been Marciano’s 89th birthday had he not died in a plane crash in 1969.
“Sept. 1 of next year—god willing,” Sulaiman told a crowd at Brockton City Hall Tuesday afternoon after wrapping up a 48-hour visit in Brockton that included parties and receptions, a 10th anniversary celebration of Brockton’s Mary Cruise Kennedy Senior Center, a Tuesday trolley tour of Brockton's historical sites,a visit to the house and neighborhood where the grit and determination that shaped Marciano was formed, and a Monday night gala at George’s Café on Belmont Street where Sulaiman will forever be remembered in Brockton after owner Charlie Tartaglia unveiled a pizza named in Sulaiman’s honor.

“It’s the Jose Sulaiman. It’s a ham and cheese. He said he likes ham and cheese. We have the Kenneth Feinberg—that has everything on it,” said Tartaglia, who is also a member of a committee that invited Sulaiman for the Brockton visit so a relationship that began about 3-years ago via telephone calls and email between Sulaiman in Mexico and Brockton supporters in the U.S. could be solidified by a face-to-face meeting to show the city's pride in Marciano's accomplishments and its desire to have the statue in its midst. (Sulaiman in photo second from top at left with baseball hat and in photo above, at left)
And while it was a happy holiday and love-filled tour, the trip was not just a big party in memory of “Brockton Blockbuster” Rocky Marciano.
It also included a business meeting with Sulaiman and WBC officials over, in large part, who is going to pay for the statue—including its construction, transportation and installation in Brockton and a redesign of the statue's pose--another of numerous hitches and changes during the statue's planning process.
Initially the WBC proposed installing the statue in Boston, but after Brockton officials and residents, many with close connections to the Marciano family, campaigned through emails, telephone calls, and the media to Sulaiman and WBC’s headquarters in Mexico City that the statue’s true home should be Marciano’s true home—Brockton.
Sulaiman, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and the WBC agreed to construct the statue in Brockton and with the location battle won, Rocky’s statue faced other problems.
There was a second location disagreement within the city itself. Some wanted it on a spot near City Hall Plaza. Others wanted it at Brockton High School where thousands of people visit and ties into the high school’s Rocky Marciano Stadium.
Eventually it was decided the statue would be located near Brockton High and with that problem resolved, a small contingent from Chicago had begun what became a possibly harassing and threatening email campaign to WBC officials, Brockton officials and supporters, and the media that demanded the statue be installed in Chicago where Marciano knocked out “Jersey Joe” Walcott to retain his world heavyweight title a year after Marciano won the title for the first-time with “The Punch.”
Local officials said federal officials and law enforcement were called in to help with what has been loosely dubbed "the Chicago problem."
The Chicago problem has since subsided, but then the WBC fell into financial hard times and there was concern the boxing organization would back out of the project.
Oversees negotiations began again, and in Brockton a group of Marciano friends, family, supporters and boxing enthusiasts organized to raise money and enlist volunteer architects to help with plans, engineering and transportation of the statue to Brockton from Mexico where it will be sculpted by reknowned Mexican artist Mario Rendon.
The committee decided they had to meet Sulaiman and WBC officials face-to-face to talk about the statue.
An invitation was sent. Sulaiman accepted and was treated to a festival of Marciano and Brockton.
Even after the 2-day visit, Brockton committee members said it is still unclear how much it will cost for the statue to be shipped and installed in Brockton.
Sulaiman and Brockton officials said there is agreement the WBC would pay for the statue’s cost to sculpt and the rest will be decided.
Officials said it is also unclear if the WBC or Brockton supporters will pay for its installation once it is complete.
The statue itself has been estimated at $300,000, but that was when it was to be made of bronze and stand a few inches taller.
During the 2-day visit it was decided the statue would not be made of bronze because the metal is too heavy and that the height would be about 20 to 22 feet tall. Officials estimated the new design would be at least $250,000.
What is clear, is a decision to redesign how Marciano is displayed.
Originally, Marciano’s arms were to be raised above his head in victory—a pose similar to one of Sylvester Stallone portraying boxing film hero Rocky Balbao--partially based on Marciano's career-- that until 2006 stood atop the east entrance steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Brockton officials said the statue’s pose had to be changed because they didn’t want any confusion or similarity to the fictitious Rocky and the real Rocky Marciano—a true life, ain't-gonna-happen-but-it-did story and the pose had to be “The Punch.” (Pictured at right with statue model)
“The Punch,” took place in Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium Sept. 23, 1952 during the 13th round between Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, the then-title holder and heavyweight champion who, by all historical accounts was winning easily on points during a hard-fought bout.
Opening the 13th with left eye closed, bloodied and having been knocked down, Marciano moved in and let loose his famous right, “a thunderous punch” that dropped Walcott to his knees and nearly unconscious.
Marciano was crowned the new heavyweight champion and went on to defeat all-comers for the title and retired 49-0—a record that still has not been beat.
During Monday night’s packed gala at George’s Café, a few of the area’s boxing greats like World Welterweight Champion Tony DeMarco (Pictured above, at left "punching" Richard Hand, center, with promoter Doug Pendarvis) filled the café with stories of Marciano’s boxing glory, tales of good restaurants and dishes, inquiries about family and friends, and sparring days in Brockton, East Boston and Providence.
Rhode Island native and former lightweight and middleweight champion Vinnie Pazienza (Pictured below) said he was happy for Brockton and Marciano’s family and that the statue is a tribute to Rocky—one of a very short list Pazienza said were truly great boxers.
Pazienza included Sugar Ray Robinson and Willy Pep as two of the greatest in the ring.
He added Roberto Duran who Pazienza fought and beat twice by decision when Pazienza said Duran was “in his 80s or 90s.”
“He hit me so hard. I can’t even imagine what he must of been like when he was in his prime. I would have been all done,” Pazienza said of Duran who was over 40-years-old when they fought in the early 1990s.
Pazienza said Marciano holds a special place in boxing history, not only for his famous right-hand, but also his heart.
“He was a great boxer, but he was also a great man. He did everything for his family, his community. He is one of the truly great boxers. He was the cream of the crop,” Pazienza said.
Peter Marciano, Rocky's brother, (pictured in top photo) said Sulaiman's visit was a great time and that Sulaiman is a great guy who has now seen first hand why the statue not only should be in Brockton, but why it has to be built as a final victory in Rocky's 49-0 undefeated career.
"Maybe we can make Rocky's record, instead of 49-0, we'll make it 50-0," Marciano said. "This is another one of those great victories for Rocky...his final victory," he said.

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