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Home » Joe Frazier lost role as Clubber Lang after literally giving Rocky stitches

Joe Frazier lost role as Clubber Lang after literally giving Rocky stitches

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Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier lost the role of Clubber Lang in Rocky III after a rehearsal incident.

Hollywood icon Sylvester Stallone had an entirely different vision for the part in the third installment of his famous Rocky franchise.

Stallone, known for his revelations, gave fans another tale surrounding making his hit movie during the 1980s. This one involved himself needing stitches at the hands of the dangerous Frazier.

Filming of Rocky III began in 1981 following two highly successful prequels, which took over $400 million at the worldwide box office.

Searching for a real boxer to star as his main rival for the film, Stallone looked at heavyweight greats past and present.

He wanted authenticity in a film that would see him losing his position as champion before heading off on the road to redemption, trained to success at the hands of Rocky I and II rival Apollo Creed.

Eventually portrayed successfully by Mr. T (aka Laurence Tureaud), the fearsome Clubber Lang character’s evolution took time before it ultimately fell into place.

Taking the directional reigns on Rocky for the second time, Stallone picks up what he was thinking for the part.

“It begins with the discovery of Mr. T, who gave an incredible performance as Clubber Lang,” explained Stallone. “In Rocky III, I thought we should use a real fighter to push the envelope to where fighting films had never gone before.

rocky balboa clubber lang

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“I decided to use the legendary heavyweight champion from Philadelphia, Smokin’ Joe Frazier. So, he cheerfully came to the gym. He was very excited, very happy, and very brightly dressed, all in green.

“(Joe had on) green pants, green shoes, green hat, green shirt (and even) green suspenders!

“He wanted the part very badly, and believe me. I wanted him to get it, too, as Smokin’ Joe Frazier is fighting Rocky! It would be seriously entertaining, actually unbelievable!


“So, I naïvely said, why don’t we get into the ring. We move around a little. See how we look together.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was like going into a lion’s cage covered in steak sauce and asking, ‘how do you think I will taste?’ But this was a very dumb idea – very bad.

“Joe was one of the most punishing fighters that ever lived, and other boxers would honestly say that after they fought Smokin’ Joe, they were never the same. Of course, I thought that was a slight exaggeration, and I wanted our movie to be special and very realistic, no matter the price.

“Again, in retrospect, A very foolhardy, hazardous, and homicidal concept. Once in the ring, I figured I move around. I’d avoid his punches.

“That idea worked well for about two seconds. Simply because the next thing I knew, there was a thunderous left hook planted extremely deep in my body. Then an overhand right resembling a falling piano landing just above my left eye.

“The world was now spinning in several directions at the same time.

“Anyway, I felt bad for Joe and did not want him to hurt his hands anymore and decided to call it a day.


“In retrospect, It was a wonderful afternoon meeting the legendary Joe Frazier and getting six stitches, but it was also a brilliant realization that I needed someone like Mr. T in my life,” he added.

Frazier had appeared in the original Rocky movie as a special guest before the main event between Balboa and Creed at the Philadelphia Spectrum.

Sadly, that would be his only excursion into the Balboa universe. It could have been a lot more had he taken it easy on director Sylvester Stallone.

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