Saturday, February 25, 2012

Debating a Mostly Ridiculous Hypothetical: Apollo Creed's Legacy

My buddy Shawn*: “Have I talked to you about the idea the Apollo Creed was probably the best boxer of all time? And would you watch a prequel about him?”

No you have not, and yes I would.

Creed was 33 when he fought against Rocky Balboa in 1976. The 6’2” undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion had been in 46 professional bouts, winning each by knockout.

These are incredible numbers, of course. Creed was a masterful fighter, an incredible showman, and an accomplished businessman. He had few weaknesses and many strengths. Clearly he was a once-in-a-generation fighter. But he wasn’t perfect.

He must have been a prodigy and accomplished amateur. Let’s assume he fought in the 1960 Olympics in Rome (Aug. 25-Sep. 11), just days after turning 17. He lost** and began fighting as a professional later that year. He then averaged three fights/wins/KO’s per year for the next 15 years.

He had millions of fans and was probably the most famous athlete in the world. He was cocky, outspoken and wealthy. But he was humble, he never dodged a fight, he knew where he came from and gave young fighters a chance. He had a great career and was a great man; but was he the greatest?


Part of determining if he was the greatest boxer of all-time is deciding which boxers don’t exist*** in the Rockiverse. Obviously, Ali**** (That [sort of] rhymes). Based on his performance against Balboa, when the Dancing Destroyer should have been in the prime of his career, he would have had no chance against Frazier OR Foreman.

Frazier was relentless. The only thing that could keep him at bay was length and Creed had none of that. The King of Sting had power, but Frazier had granite chin. No contest. Frazier by knockout, so Frazier never existed.

If there’s one thing we know about Creed, it’s that he can’t handle southpaws. If there are two things, the second is that when he gets hit in the mouth, his game plan goes out the window, he flips into survival mode, he drops his hands, and he throws punches like a hummingbird. “Master of Disaster” was not a nickname he earned. If Foreman landed one shot, he would land his next 10. Then Creed would drop dead. Foreman did not exist.

Leaving all other fighters and their records untouched, and pretending those three fought in a parallel universe, we can begin to make comparisons.

His record ranks near the top, with his KO totals pushing him into elite company. But how would he really be remembered? What is his legacy?


When Joe Frazier died a few months ago, 4,000 people went to his funeral. When Creed died, there were only a few dozen in attendance. In less than a decade since his first defeat, his legend and legions had disappeared. If he was truly such a great fighter, as his record seemed to show, why was he forgotten so quickly?

In Rocky III, Creed brings the Stallion to train at the Tough Gym in LA. Though Apollo is welcomed, he is mostly ignored by his African-American peers. They respect him, but they keep him at a distance.

I’ll go a step further: Creed was disliked by the African-American community and treasured by white America.

In the first Rocky film, Creed is clearly a national figure. He is cheered everywhere he goes, welcomed to appear on TV whenever he pleases and sets the boxing schedule. But is this just white America? His manager is white. The fight promoters are all white. Most of the crowd is white. When he’s given a chance to pick his underdog, unknown opponent, he chooses “the Italian Stallion” instead of using the opportunity to promote a new black fighter. Before the first fight, he dresses as George Washington instead of Abraham Lincoln or a historically prominent African-American.

During Rocky’s training, he is cheered and showered with praise. Chants of “you can do it, Rock” rain down upon him from all races. The African Americans in his neighborhood wanted a white guy to beat  Creed.

Ali is regarded as the finest boxer of all time because he was a phenomenal fighter, and because he had such a complete and diverse fan base. He appealed to everyone, and everyone loved him. Creed does not have this appeal. White America loved him, until he lost, and black America tolerated him.

Surely he’d had an impressive rise to the top, but who did he step on to get there? In an era just after the civil rights movement, why were all of his handlers white?

He had a great career, but he was far from the best. And I would totally pay to find out why not.


*Henceforth known as MBS.

**Probably before the medal round, as his amateur accomplishments are never mentioned as part of his resume.

***For comparison sake, their careers exist, but the concept of fighting Creed was unimaginable.

****This would have been a solid fight, but I think Ali would get the win. He has a significant reach advantage, even if he was only an inch taller. The fighters were similarly quick, and Creed must have had fairly good power if he was able to knock out 46 professional fighters, so we’ll call that a push as well. Ali was known for his ability to win the fight before he entered the ring, but Creed was an impressive showman himself, so to me there’s no clear advantage there either. The difference would be Ali’s defensive skills. Creed managed to avoid some of Balboa’s wild haymakers, but struggled for much of the fight, particularly when he began to tire. Young Ali was untouchable, and Old Ali had a knack for wearing his opponents down without absorbing catastrophic damage. The fight wouldn’t end quickly, but it would end with Ali on top.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Behold the only thing greater than yourself

Reasons I didn’t start a blog until now: (1) chaotic insecurities (2) paranoid delusions of my eternally legacy being tarnished (3) arrested imaginative development (4) inability to come up with a clever name.

I started this blog today. Thus far I have managed to overcome one* of these limitations. This was no small task**, requiring months of brainstorming, talking to friends, experimenting and doing nothing for weeks at a time.

In order to help me determine an acceptable blog title, I (arbitrarily) decided on certain criteria I needed to reach:

Search Engine Optimization
Available Twitter handle (Not anymore! It’s unclear if I’ll use it, but @grantwritesgood now belongs to me.)
Relatively unoccupied acronym (GWG***)
Attract confused people looking learn how to write a grant proposal


Having a generally optimistic premise was particularly important. Although I’ll likely expand on this point in a later post, I’m really bothered by the overall negativity of the internet, the current state of comedy and American society as a whole. It seems like people can’t tell jokes anymore unless they involve tearing someone or something else down. I blame VH1.

More importantly, I find it much easier and enjoyable to write if the topic something that makes me happy. There is a great deal of work involved in formulating and voicing a clear opinion, and then putting that opinion in words. I’d much rather spend that time and energy being happy.


The title went through many incarnations over the last few months. Some of my favorite ideas were already taken (I would mention them, but I’m not giving anyone else the satisfaction) and others just didn’t seem like a good fit.

I had a couple get all the way to the creation process before abandoning them. I believe I started three other Twitter accounts, two other blogs (with zero posts) and wrote a handful of ledes to stories that I never finished.

I didn’t start to get to this point until my friend**** switched her “very popular” blog from wordpress to blogspot and got me thinking more about what I wanted to do with my own.

Not long after, my friend Betty and I started texting after a prolonged communiqué holiday (that rhymes). She suggested without provocation that I start a blog. Together we brainstormed names (read: threw [ideas] against the wall).

For me, being witty usually involves portmanteaus. Thus, I began pitching a series of letter piles such “gramazin,” “gramusement,” and “grantificating.”

Betty (swiftly and correctly) decided these sounded like blogs for septuagenarians who knit sweaters, watch Lawrence Welk and complain about the declining quality of appliances manufactured after 1964. I haven’t given up on portmanteaus, but for my blog title, they were out.

Next I tried thinking of alliterative words to combine with “Grant.” These ideas mostly had negative (grumbles, gruntles), arrogant (grand, great), or oddly rhythmic (groove, grace) connotations.

GrantWritesGood was suggested by Betty, who quickly added, “People might think it’s about writing grants, so maybe smart people will stumble upon your blog. Win!”

The entire conversation took less time than when she tried to explain to me how to use Spotify*****.  So hopefully I will have at least two readers, with that added bonus that they’re both smokin’ hot AND have lots of friends.


*Possibly 0.5, as I’m not entirely sure the name can universally be considered “clever”. It is (hopefully) at least clever to a small but devoted group of people. I like to call these people gravotees******

**See issues 1-3

***Others include: game-winning goal; girls with guns; Ghent PDF workgroup; Great Western Minerals Group, Global Warranty Group, some guy who likes politics and the Cubs, and the Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group*******

****For future reference, any time I use the word “friend” I’m referring to a girl. Any time I use the word “buddy,” I’ll be talking about a guy. I would like this to become the accepted terminology for everyone.

*****I still have not figured it out. Someday, though, with determination and a lot of help, I believe I will. I have that much confidence in my abilities.

******Subject to change

*******I’m bewildered about the inclusion “Intelligence” in the name but not the acronym.