26 years ago today, Homer Simpson made his legendary boxing ring walk to 'Why Can't We Be Friends?'
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Homer Simpson is a man of many talents. If it’s not his deep space exploration with NASA or producing banger hits like ‘Baby on Board’ with Grammy-winning barbershop quartet the Be Sharps, we know Homer is doing the bare minimum in his role as the safety inspector in Sector 7-G at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. But during the peak era of The Simpsons’ long-standing presence on the small screen -- and long before its current decline in quality -- Homer once again showed the versatility of a Swiss Army knife when he transitioned into the world of boxing for his short-lived combat sports career.
We only need to rewind the clocks to see that today (10th November) marks the 26th anniversary of ‘The Homer They Fall,’ which was the third episode from the eighth season of the much-admired, widely acclaimed TV show. After Bart Simpson was stripped of his novelty utility belt by resident Springfield Elementary bullies Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph, Homer stepped up as the loving father we know he is (sort of) in a bid to retrieve his son’s belt. However, Homer was in for a rude awakening when he squealed to the bullies’ fathers, which resulted in a one-sided beating at Moe’s Tavern. Homer, much to the surprise of the bullies’ fathers, was able to withstand the punishment inflicted and tried to reason with them over their sons’ actions.
Moe Szyslak, who has presumably made a killing off Homer’s bar tab, intervened with his trusty shotgun to protect his close pal and loyal customer. And here we are, with Moe opening up about his ill-fated boxing career and planting the suggestion that Homer should follow in his footsteps and enter the squared circle. Taken under the wing of Moe, who offered up his services for a 60 per cent cut of his earnings, Homer’s fledgling career in boxing began. While Homer’s dad bod and inability to actually fight would put him at a severe disadvantage, Moe was quick to realise that his friend’s ability to sustain heavy punishment made him an excellent one-trick pony.
Homer made a name for himself in the Springfield Hobo Boxing Association, with his hobo opponents succumbing to fatigue after throwing repeated shots at his head. Tiring out his opponents before delivering the ‘killing’ nudge to send them to the canvas, Homer rose through the amateur ranks ahead of turning pro. ‘The Homer They Fall’ director Mark Kirkland and writer Jonathan Collier fully tapped into the boxing scene of the 1990s with masterful storytelling by introducing us to Lucius Sweet, an ingenious parody of famed boxing promoter Don King. Sweet, who was Moe’s former boxing manager, arrived with a tempting offer after hearing of Homer’s exploits on the amateur scene. Step forward our next boxing parody: heavyweight champion Drederick Tatum, who drew inspiration from boxing legend Mike Tyson.
Lucius presented Moe with a mouth-watering proposition: Tatum has a blockbuster comeback fight against Homer after his release from prison. While Tatum would carve through Homer like a red-hot knife cutting through butter, Lucius sweetened (pun intended) the deal by offering up a lucrative payday -- not to mention fame as well -- if Homer could last at least three rounds against Tatum. Torn between his loyalty to Homer as a friend and the opportunity to reach the heights of success he never achieved in his failed boxing career, Moe took up Lucius on his offer and set the stage for Homer’s clash with Tatum. With that said, Homer’s final fight produced one of the most iconic boxing ring walks we would ever see.
The ‘Southern Dandy’ Arrives To ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’
Despite Marge Simpson’s desperate pleas for Homer to not take the fight, the Simpson patriarch proceeded forward and arrived at the Springfield Coliseum for his climatic showdown with Tatum. Just when ‘The Homer They Fall’ couldn’t be any more of an incredible watch, an unforgettable cameo from legendary boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer was the icing on the cake. Former WCW and WWE announcer Buffer introduced Tatum to the ring first, with big-name Springfield residents like Rainier Wolfcastle, Kent Brockman and Fat Tony all in attendance. A streamlined ring walk that no doubt Tyson would be proud of, Tatum made his sensational entrance to the sound of Redman’s ‘Time 4 Sum Aksion.’
Forget about Tatum, though. It’s all about Homer’s ring walk, with Buffer giving an extraordinary introduction for the legendary Simpsons character. With his reputation as the ‘Brick Hithouse’ and the ‘Southern Dandy’ highlighted, Grampa Abe Simpson and Moe accompanied Homer for his iconic ring walk while the incredible choice of War’s ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ was blaring out in the Springfield Coliseum. Tyson Fury might be known for giving us extravagant ring walks, but this was well and truly Homer’s finest hour. Journeyman Homer, who had ‘opponent’ on the back of his boxing robe, received a helping hand from Abe and Moe after struggling to enter the ring.
What needs to be said about the fight, eh? A one-sided fight is one thing, but this was a total demolition from Tatum. Clearly out of his league, Homer’s tolerance to withstand punishment reached its peak as Tatum landed repeated head shots while showboating to the crowd. Taking a quick ‘breather’ to converse with Charlie Sheen at ringside, Tatum was warned by the referee to resume the fight. Following the brilliant Tatum-Sheen skit, Homer took his puncher’s chance opportunity in a bid to cause a stunning upset. Did it work? Well, Homer fell way short of his target (understatement of the century?) and was punished once again by a powerful Tatum shot.
With Marge’s plea for the fight to be stopped being drowned out by a rowdy crowd that wanted to see Tatum knock Homer’s head off, a regret-filled Moe quickly fled from ringside after setting up Homer in an unwinnable fight. However, Moe came to his senses and delivered us another iconic moment in The Simpsons’ history, with him swooping into the ring using a paramotor and lifting Homer out before Tatum could land a Tyson-esque finishing blow. Did Moe redeem himself? We think so. Well, aside from causing further brain damage to Homer after hitting his head on the metal scaffolding as he flew them both out of the Springfield Coliseum. Actually, Moe pocketing Lucius’ $100,000 cheque and not giving Homer a cut was a pretty shady move, too.
Even now, ‘The Homer They Fall’ is a testament to The Simpsons’ once impeccable ability to tap into the world of sports for their once brilliant storytelling. Unsurprisingly, Homer’s ring walk to ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ has forever been etched into the minds of boxing fans, who have nothing but fond memories of that one segment from the classic 1996 episode. “Perfect entrance song to a fight,” one fan said. Someone else posted: “I laughed so hard when I saw this when it first aired. That’s the best use of that song ever!” Another commented: “I wish someone in the UFC would come out to ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’” While a fourth boxing fan added: “I came here for this scene and I’m dying of laughter. What a song to play as [an] entrance.”
It’s safe to say that ‘The Homer They Fall’ has aged like a fine wine, and Homer’s short run as a boxer, coupled with his ring walk ahead of his fight with the Tyson-inspired Tatum, won’t be forgotten any time soon by both boxing and Simpsons fans.