Fire Decks Frazier's 1st 'Gym' Slaughterhouse In 'rocky' Film

Posted: December 28, 1990

Joe Frazier says he was the first cow-puncher at the old Cross Brothers Meat Packing Co.

The slaughterhouse in Kensington, which went out of business in 1979 and was destroyed by fire early yesterday, was used for a scene in the first ''Rocky" movie.

The scene showed Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone, getting

himself in shape for his big fight against champion Apollo Creed by punching sides of beef suspended from rails in a meatpacking plant.

But Frazier, a real boxer who reigned as heavyweight champ from 1968 to 1973, claims he was the model for the Rocky character.

He said yesterday that he used the corpses of cattle for punching bags long before Rocky was even a gleam in Stallone's eye.

Frazier, now 46 and long retired from the ring, says he also was the first to train by running up the Art Museum steps, another famous scene from the Rocky movies.

"Stallone modeled his entire Rocky character after me," Frazier said.

Asked how Stallone would have known about Frazier's employment at Cross Brothers, he replied, "Everybody knew I worked in a slaughterhouse."

He was photographed there frequently, he said.

In addition, Frazier said, he and other boxers met with Stallone in Los Angeles while the actor was planning "Rocky." The fighters thought they might get parts in the movie.

"But he just wanted to steal our ideas," grumped Frazier, who now runs his own gym in North Philadelphia and operates a limousine service. "He had no intention of putting us in his movie."

Frazier's experience with Cross Brothers, at Front and Venango streets, was not altogether pleasant either, he said, despite the free training facilities.

He said he worked there part time from 1962 to 1964, butchering and railing beef, but couldn't get hired full time.

"I came back from Tokyo," where he won a gold medal in boxing at the Olympic Games in 1964, "and they wouldn't hire me because I had broken my thumb."

But, Frazier said, he was "just so sorry" to see the old plant go up in flames. He said he had never had any problems with members of the Cross family themselves.

Cross Brothers closed the plant, the last of many slaughterhouses in the city, in 1979, when it no longer paid to kill and dress animals on the East Coast. The meat business was then centered in the Midwest.

Firefighters fought the blaze in the block-long plant, fed by a large quantity of paper and boxes stored inside, for five hours in sub-freezing temperatures before bringing it under control.

The two-story building was occupied by the Cosmopolitan Advertising Co. and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

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