Bunce on Boxing: Finally, 'the real Rocky' will get a film of his own life

 

It all started 35 years ago and since then Sly Stallone has been at the heart of the six Rocky movies and there is a chance of another.

There are hundreds of tales attached to the films, with dozens of boxers claiming that they were the inspiration for various characters or scenes made famous by Stallone's creation Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion.

Joe Frazier insists he hit lumps of meat in a giant freezer before he was world champion; Stallone has given Don King and Muhammad Ali credit for their influence on other characters. However, Chuck Wepner is the man at the very bloody core of the films because he was the cut, bleeding and heroic no-hoper that sent Stallone down the Rocky road.

Wepner, a brave fringe contender with hundreds of stitches across his brows, lost a world heavyweight title fight to Muhammad Ali in 1975, dropped Ali in the ninth and was rescued by the referee with just 19 seconds left in the 15th and final round. That is true, even if it reads like fiction.

Stallone was watching at a cinema and went home and wrote the Rocky story in three days. "When the man who was considered an absolute pushover knocked the unbeatable champion down – I saw how the crowd reacted and I said to myself: 'This is what it is all about'," said Stallone.

Ali had just beaten George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle, a fight he was expected to lose, and the Wepner and Ali fight, which was the first that Don King promoted on his own, was meant to be Wepner against Foreman.

Wepner was known as the Bayonne Bleeder and he had no control over the cuts across his eyebrows, nose and forehead. His trainer and cutsman Al Braverman lied to him about the severity of the wounds and on most occasions the referee ignored the cuts. However, in one fight, against the lethal-fisted Sonny Liston, Wepner was cut above both eyes, an eye was shut, his left cheekbone was shattered and the ref came over between rounds seven and eight. "Chuck, how many fingers am I holding up?" Wepner had no idea but Braverman tapped three times on his shoulder and Wepner replied: "Three, now get outta here and let me do my job." It lasted another round before it was called off. Wepner claims he had 72 stitches, the ringside report suggests it was closer to 120. Liston was asked after the fight if Wepner was the bravest man he ever met. "No," Liston said. "But his manager is."

In 2003, Wepner, by now a reformed cocaine addict, was out of prison and looking for a bit of financial respect. He was sick of people shaking the hand of "the real Rocky". He had a loose friendship with Stallone but still decided to sue for $1m for his part in the Rocky franchise, which has generated $1bn. In 2006 they settled out of court; Wepner was happy and now there will be a film of his life.

Here's Chuck on the night he planned after beating Ali: "I gave my wife a very sexy blue negligee. And I told her, 'I want you to wear this, because after the fight you'll be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world.' And when the fight was over, after I had gotten stitched up, 23 stitches, I went back to the hotel. And my wife was in the room, waiting for me, wearing the negligee. And she said to me, 'OK, big shot. Do I go to the champ's room, or does he come to see me'?" Now that is a Rocky moment.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there