In 1976, a film about a small time boxer from the streets of Philadelphia named Rocky Balboa who gets a shot at the World Heavyweight Title by the champion named Apollo Creed was released. The film starred and was written by a fairly unknown actor named Sylvester Stallone, and went on to become one of the largest grossing films, and won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Picture. The film I am talking about is, of course, “Rocky.” The film went on to have several sequels, and went on to become one of the most successful movie franchises.
This past Tuesday, ESPN FILM’s 30 on 30 series presented, “The Real Rocky,” by Jeff Feuerzeig. The film discusses the life and career of boxer Chuck Wepner. During Wepner’s career, he was nicknamed “The Bayonne Bleeder” because during a fight between himself and Sonny Liston, he got his nose broken and was bleeding profusely. Wepner is interviewed, and he was saying how he was hoping that in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” match between then Heavyweight Champion George Foreman, and challenger Muhammad Ali, he was pulling for Foreman because he knew he would get a title shot.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Well, as most people know, Ali won that fight, and became the new Champion by knocking out Foreman. However, a couple of months later, Ali gave the Title shot to Chuck Wepner. Wepner then describes the build up for the fight.which included Ali telling him to call him (Ali) the “n” word right before both appeared on the Mike Douglas show. Wepner said he couldn’t do it, and would not do it as he had African American friends, and his sparring partners were also African American. Well, on the Douglas show, Ali claimed that Wepner called him an “n” word, and Wepner and Ali got into it. As for the fight itself, it was a very good bout. Ali won in the 15th round when Wepner could not go anymore, and the referee stopped the fight. Wepner said that he felt good about the fight as he felt that at least he was able to go 15 rounds with the champ
Now, what does this story of Wepner’s life and boxing career have to do with the movie, “Rocky?” Well, according to the documentary, Wepner’s lawers who took depositions from Stallone were talking about how Stallone got all defensive when certain aspects of Wepner’s life were used in the film. Stallone tried to say that the film was based on Rocky Marciano, but in interviews, he mentions Wepner over and over. According to the docutmentary, it was quite evident that Stallone used the Ali vs Wepner fight as inspiration for the movie. In fact, when Wepner attended a showing of “Rocky,” people gave him a standing ovation as a lot of them felt the film reflected many aspects of his life.
In the original “Rocky” film, there is that famous scene where Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum during training. According to Wepner, as part of his training, he would run up the main library steps. During the documentary, Wepner talks about meeting and fighting a worked match with the late WWE (then WWF) star Andre the Giant. Vince McMahon is interviewed briefly. Wepner said that near the end of the match, Andre would throw him over the top rope into the crowd.. In the 3rd sequel, “Rocky III,” there is a scene where Rocky fights wrestler Thunderlips played by current TNA wrestler, Hulk Hogan. Thunderlips throws Rocky over the tope into the crowd. Also in the original film, Rocky Balboa is a debt collector for a loan shark. Wepner also had worked in a similar line of work.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]Wepner felt slighted by Stallone. He went to prison for cocaine charges, and Stallone was doing a movie at the prison he was in, and Stallone just asked how he was. Wepner felt that Stallone didn’t give him (Wepner) any credit even though Wepner felt it was obvious that his life was the basis for the “Rocky” movies. He felt he should have gotten something. It was the filming of the movie “Cop Land,” that really frustrated him, and he then decided to sue. On the DVDs for the “Rocky” movies, Stallone mentions Wepner, so it is rather strange that during his depositions, he got agitated when asked by Wepner’s lawyers about whether the Ali fight was the inspiration for the film. Vince McMahon says that he advised Stallone to settle, which is exactly what happened.
I thought the film was very well done. It was a very interesting documentary. Sad to see that Wepner is still working as a liquor salesman. It was also disappointing to see that Stallone didn’t give Wepner any credit. I mean, from watching the documentary, it was just too obvious to me that the Ali/Wepner fight was the inspiration for the film, and that Chuck Wepner was the inspiration for Rocky. There was way too many similarities between events in Wepner’s life, and the “Rocky” movies. I definitely recommend the documentary.
Follow Chuck Wepner on You Tube on The Chuck Wepner channel.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead