Joe Frazier’s loss became Laurence Tureaud’s gain. According to Sylvester Stallone, the legendary former heavyweight king was all set to take the part of Clubber Lang in the third installment of the fantastic “Rocky” series, only for “Smokin’” Joe to suffer a flashback in pre-movie sparring with Sly, hitting him with a shot that opened up a nasty cut, requiring six stitches.
Bye bye, Joe became, hello, Mr. T (Tureaud’s far more famous alter ego) and the unknown actor shot to international stardom thanks to his wonderfully villainous portrayal of the toughest (non-steroid taking) foe Rocky Balboa ever met in the ring. Just imagine if Frazier – who actually had a short walk-on part in the original “Rocky;” basically playing himself – had treated audiences to some of the lines Mr. T made famous: “Hey, woman!” “Dead Meat!” “Pain!” and “No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I will destroy any man who tries to take what I got!”
All of these fantastic lines could have been delivered by the real-life Philadelphia boxing legend. Of course the world would likely have been robbed of the bombastic acting skills of Mr. T, but Frazier’s legacy would have grown even more if he’d played the part of Clubber (even if we fight fans will never forget Joe’s real life ring heroics anyway).
Stallone, via social media, explains why T took over after Joe’s audition proved way too real:
“In Rocky Three I thought we should use a REAL fighter, just to push the envelope to where fighting films had never gone before. So I decided to use the legendary heavyweight champion from Philadelphia, Smokin’ Joe Frazier to play the brutal Clubber Lang. So he cheerfully came to the gym, very excited. He wanted the part very badly, and believe me I wanted him to get it too….. Smokin’ Joe Frazier fighting Rocky!? This would be seriously entertaining, actually unbelievable!!! So I naively said why don’t we get in the ring and move around a little and see how we look together. This was a very dumb idea….very bad. I wanted out movie to be special, very realistic no matter what the price….in retrospect a very foolhardy, hazardous, and homicidal concept. Once in the ring there was a thunderous left hook planted extremely deep in my body, and an overhand right that resembled a falling piano just above my left eye. The world was now spinning in several directions at the same time. I felt bad for Joe and did not want him to hurt his hands any more. A brilliant realisation that I needed someone like Mr. T in my life.”
A brilliant story, albeit one that recalls the day Joe Frazier unintentionally ruined his own acting aspirations; at the same time making one up-and-coming performer’s million to one shot a reality.
Stallone would have to wait until 2006’s Rocky Balboa before his fictitious character swapped leather with a real-life fighter in a main event (Rocky did fight “Spider Rico,” AKA: Pedro Lovell in the original flick). Could Joe Frazier have done a better job that Antonio Tarver, who of course played Mason “The Line” Dixon?” We will, unfortunately, never know.