Rocky has always been a sentimental favorite, and I think it’s because I like stories about impossible struggles. That quiet moment of doubt and realization the night before the fight always gives me chills; it’s everything you need to know about facing the possibility of failure with dignity and determination. Our own Geoff Henao wrote about watching Rocky for the first time last night.
At the heart of Sylvester Stallone’s screenplay is a true story. Rocky Balboa was based on real-life boxer Chuck Wepner aka The Bayonne Bleeder. Wepner went 15 rounds against Muhammad Ali in 1975. Think about that: that’s just months after Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman and just months before The Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier.
Filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston) took a look at Wepner in his ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Real Rocky. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I was reminded of the doc by comics blogger and Batmanologist Chris Sims, who mentioned it on the War Rocket Ajax podcast. Wepner’s story seems worth sharing what with all things Expendables-related this week.