Top New Zealand fighters run Rocky Steps
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN PHILADELPHIA
It remains the quintessential boxing movie and young Kiwi fighters Joseph Parker and Robbie Berridge proved it had stood the test of time as they re-enacted one of its famous scenes in Philadelphia today.
Sylvester Stallone's 1976 classic Rocky launched a six-move series that won three Oscars, based around the battling boxer Rocky Balboa.
In the most basic of fitness programmes he built his leg strength by running up the 72 steps leading to the city's beautiful Museum of Art. Hardly able to jog up them at the start of his campaign, he was triumphant in sprinting up them by the end of the original.
They have become known as the Rocky Steps. A statue of the fighter stands at their base and there were plenty of locals using them today in their own fitness workouts.
The sight of two large men draped in New Zealand flags jogging up and down them turned more than a few heads.
Heavyweight Parker and light-heavyweight Berridge would fight on Sunday in Bethlehem, about an hour's drive from "Philly" and couldn't resist the chance to honour the landmark.
Parker, 22, said he had watched the original Rocky "a few times'' and refreshed himself on YouTube yesterday, before arriving in Philadelphia from his Las Vegas base this morning.
"We wanted to come straight here to the steps. It's a beautiful day and a beautiful place. It makes the movie very real for me now," Parker said.
"I was going to get dressed for the occasion ... wear the old grey sweats. I watched parts of the movie again last night just to get Rocky's actions right going up the steps and his celebration."
Berridge, 29, on his first trip to the United States, was quite moved by the experience.
"It was awesome after seeing the movie and then running the Rocky Steps. I'm just looking forward to getting my fight in America ... I'm here to do my thing," the knockout specialist said.
It was a real trip down memory lane for Parker's trainer Kevin Barry.
"I can remember going to the Rocky premier in Christchurch. I came out feeling so pumped I wanted to get into the ring," Barry said.
"I've sent hem all, but the original Rocky is still my favourite."
He had done the ritual of the Rocky Steps in 2003 when he was in charge of David Tua who fought a controversial draw with Hasim Raman in Philadelphia.
Barry took Tua to the steps and they ran up them with the then world middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins.
Barry felt that running the steps was "a good motivation" for Parker and Berridge ahead of important fights on Sunday.
Parker was taking on American Keith Thompson over six rounds while Berridge was putting his WBO Oriental and WBC Asian belts on the line against unbeaten Russian champion Vasily Lepikhim.
Both fights were on a card that would be televised in the United States, exposing them to a huge audience. The fights would also be televised in New Zealand.
- Duncan Johnstone travelled to the United States courtesy of Duco Events.
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