Rocky Statue Will Benefit Brockton
June 22, 2011
by Maria Papadopoulos
Mayor Linda Balzotti said she hadn't seen so much testosterone in one room before.
Boxer Vinnie "The Pazmanian Devil" Paz joined delegates from the World Boxing Council in Mexico. The boxing guests mingled with Brocktonians from all walks of life, taking pictures and exchanging handshakes at George's Cafe on Belmont Street. They ate pasta, Italian sausages and meatballs.
It seemed the spirit of Rocky permeated the room, as the celebration happened a few streets away from where Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, grew up and played baseball as a youth.
The guests were young and old, black, white, Hispanic. Most were natives of Brockton, a blue-collar city of roughly 93,000.
All wore smiles, and they came together to solidify plans for a $250,000 statue honoring Marciano, who died in a plane crash in 1969 at age 45.
The statue will be dedicated in a ceremony on Sept. 1, 2012, which would have been Marciano's 89th birthday.
This statue - a 20-foot structure to be erected outside the high school stadium bearing Marciano's name - will "serve as a glue for the community," the mayor said.
"We have our difficulties (as a city) and I don't think anybody tries to hide or mask those," Balzotti said. "But still there's a great sense of pride in being a Brocktonian and now we will have a statue that will attract visitors hopefully from all over the world who will hopefully spend time in our city."
The beaten-down image of Brockton, a community that has been plagued with crime for years, could benefit from a statue honoring its native son, said Michele Wakin, sociology professor at Bridgewater State University.
"For outsiders, it brings a certain acclaim and renown to the city, which can boost morale and potentially attract revenue," Wakin said.
The statue, Wakin said, could be the beginning of a revival of boxing and fitness in the city.
"The gym has always been a way of engaging, especially, urban youth in a positive way that emphasizes discipline and fitness over more negative and dangerous forms of competition," Wakin said.
But a statue alone isn't enough to make Brockton an international destination, said Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute at Stonehill College.
"But given Brockton's rich history, if (officials) were to tap into a cultural identity with Marciano, which in some ways they have, then you could conceivably turn it into something bigger than a statue on a square," Ubertaccio said.
Marciano's name is "iconic," and his persona is established, which could boost tourism, he said.
"A larger effort to establish his brand as linked with the fate of the city could move tourists or others who might otherwise go to Brockton to go there," Ubertaccio said.
Tom Kenney, athletic director at Brockton High School, where the statue will be erected, said the statue will do what Marciano did nearly 60 years ago: Put Brockton on the map.
"This really means an awful lot to a lot of people, it really does," said Kenney, a former city resident who lives in Easton.
Last Monday, standing in a packed room at George's Cafe, owner Charles Tartaglia looked around and smiled.
Then, he thanked one man from Mexico - World Boxing President Jose Sulaiman - for causing the jovial atmosphere.
"He's like a godfather to us," Tartaglia said. "It's great."
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