31.12.06 – By James Slater: Most fans will have seen the sixth and (hopefully) final instalment of the Rocky series by now. Indeed, there have been some fine articles right here on Eastside Boxing by writers who very much enjoyed and rated the movie. I too thoroughly enjoyed it, and was somewhat relieved at having done so. The last thing I wanted was for the movie to bomb, as number five did. Sly Stallone certainly does deserve credit for bringing a touch of class back to his most famous celluloid creation. One of the things I enjoyed most about Rocky Balboa though, was the nostalgia elements to it. Nice work I thought, bringing us up to date with the Lil’ Marie character, for example. Even better, however, was the updated storyline featuring the guy who is the subject of this article. Rocky, as all who have seen the movie know, is friendly with his one-time opponent in Spider Rico.. Balboa even lets Spider hang in his new business venture, his restaurant – an eatery lovingly named after his now deceased Adrian. Even Paulie remembers Spider, asking Rocky, in his own inimitable way “Didn’t you knock out that bum once?” But who was the real life Spider Rico, as opposed to the reel life incarnation?
Born in Argentina in June of 1945, Pedro Lovell tried his hand at pro boxin in the early 1970’s. In fact, before going on to achieve his biggest fame as an actor portraying a fighter Lovell was a decent enough club fighter type brawler in the real world. Knocking out someone who’s name might just have been a sign intended to let Pedro know what his real claim to fame would eventually wind up being, in one Ron Howard, Lovell was on his way as a pro. He followed up this one round KO victory with more low key performances, mostly fought at The Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Pedro was good enough to defeat a calibre of opposition such as Billy Daniels – KO 1, Jody Ballard – WPTS 10 and Terry Krueger – KO 1. Lovell actually boxed Krueger twice, the one round stoppage avenging the KO he’d suffered in the fourth round previously. A fight where the gutsy Lovell was out cold for some three minutes!
It was around the time of the Ballard win that an unknown movie maker began selecting supporting actors to play alongside the starring role that he himself would portray. Sylvester Stallone, who barely anybody had heard of, approached Lovell and asked him if he’d be interested in playing a club fighter in his new film Rocky. Pedro jumped at the chance and the rest is history. Though he was only on screen for a few minutes, Pedro’s character was a memorable one. And one that resurfaces, some thirty years later, in the new movie. The Rocky films were Lovell’s only venture into the world of showbiz, despite his fine job playing the now infamous Spider Rico. And after shooting was done Pedro went back to making a living fighting for real.
In 1976, with Rocky set for release, Pedro boxed future heavyweight champion of the world Ken Norton. Ironically, the man who stopped him on national television in a respectable five rounds, was himself once asked to star in the original Rocky – as the flamboyant Apollo Creed. How things could have been had he not allowed Carl Weathers to do the job instead. Fight fans would have seen a real fight between two actors! Pedro soldiered on for another four bouts, finally retiring, and all but disappearing from the radar in doing so, after a ten round points loss to another future heavyweight king in Mike Weaver in 1977. His final record reads – 18 wins (14 by KO) 3 defeats and two draws.
A big name he may never have been, yet Pedro Lovell, via his fictitious character, is an integral part of the Rocky legend. One that has been fabulously brought back into the limelight in 2006’s finest boxing picture – Rocky Balboa.