Running on the treadmill on Saturday, I watched The Real Rocky directed by Jeff Feuerzeig and Mike Tollin. The documentary is airing as part of a series of seven documentaries that ESPN Films is running this fall.
The Real Rocky is the story of Chuck Wepner. A heavyweight boxer in the 1960's and 1970's with a record of 35 wins, 14 losses and 2 draws, he fought Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. As his career started to wind down, Wepner also fought Andre the Giant and a real grizzly bear. The Muhammad Ali fight is the focal point of the film.
For the last thirty-five years, Sylvester Stallone has mentioned Wepner as the inspiration for the Rocky movies. There are a number of parts in the Rocky films that seemed pulled directly from Chuck's life. Although Stallone tried to cast Wepner in Rocky II, Chuck never reaped any benefit from the Rocky franchise. Finally in 2003, Wepner sued Stallone; they settled out of court.
Clips from interviews with Wepner appear throughout the film. At age 72, he was lucid and articulate. It appears that he is still working as a liquor salesman.
This is a very solid, watchable documentary that is worth searching out. Unfortunately, the film is not currently available on iTunes or Amazon.
A feature film about Chuck Wepner's life is scheduled to be released in 2012.
Michael Weinreb writes about a visit with Chuck Wepner and his wife on Grantland.com.