The movie Rocky has long since become part of American myth. If you have seen it and the theme comes on while you’re in the gym, you push a little harder. It’s become a universal symbol for working hard and triumphing. Proximity to the Bicentennial didn’t hurt.
But Rocky didn’t come fully formed in Sylvester Stallone’s fertile mind. He based it on the story of an obscure boxer who got a shot at Muhammad Ali - and the made the most of it.
That boxer was named Chuck Wepner, and he got into the ring with Ali on March 24, 1975. To everyone’s surprise, he went toe-to-toe with Ali and in the ninth round, knocked Ali down.
Ali said Wepner had stepped on his foot and apparently he did. But no one realized it at the time.
Unfortunately for Wepner, Ali, who wasn’t in great shape for this fight, came off his stool ready to make Wepner pay. He cut him open above both eyes and broke his nose before the official called the fight on a TKO late in the 15th round.