Sylvester Stallone is one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. Thanks to his cult film franchises Rocky and Rambo, the star is synonymous with some of the best action films in the history of cinema. The Rocky series went on to achieve iconic status and is still considered the benchmark among sports films today.
While it is common knowledge that Stallone’s inspiration for the character of Rocky was created from a fight involving the legendary Mohammad Ali, it was not Ali himself who served as the muse for the story. The boxing champion’s opponent, Chuck Wepner, who was the severe underdog in the fight with Ali, sparked the Italian Stallion’s creative juices which ultimately led to Rocky.
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How Boxer Chuck Wepner Inspired Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky
Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character Rocky, who became one of Hollywood’s biggest heroes over 4 films, is still considered a cult figure despite being a fictional character. Stallone, who wrote the script for the first film, was inspired by real-life events that led to the creation of the evergreen hero. While audiences are aware that The Expendables star used boxing legend Muhammed Ali’s fight as the foundation, it was Ali’s opponent Chuck Wepner’s tenacity that planted the seed for the story.
Wepner, who was no match for the great Ali, was getting battered inside out in the fight, but never gave up and even had moments of brilliance in which he challenged the legend and unbelievably dealt him a knockout blow. Stallone was amazed at the determination and courage of Wepner to rise up in such circumstances and had a eureka moment.
“From nowhere, Wepner knocked down the immortal Ali. It was like a bolt of lightning from some Greek god in the sky, and, almost instantly, Wepner became the crowd favorite — in a matter of seconds. Suddenly, he went from being a complete joke to being somebody whom everybody watching could identify with—because everybody’s thinking, ‘Yes, I’d like to do that!’”
Chuck Wepner’s tenacity became the inspirational underdog fairytale that Sylvester Stallone was looking for and the rest, as they say, is history, with Rocky becoming one of the greatest sports dramas of all time.
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Sylvester Stallone Was Embarrassed By His Hall Of Fame Honor
Although the Rocky series starring Sylvester Stallone was based on a fictional character, the film became a cult franchise that inspired many boxers to follow their dreams and make a name for themselves inside the ring. The films also served as a life lesson for courage and determination in the face of adversity. All this was possible thanks to Stallone’s vision for the character and his intrinsic love for sports from a young age. For his efforts in inspiring a generation, the Creed star was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. Stallone though, cringed at the honor and said,
“I was actually embarrassed by it [Hall of Fame honor] because I’m not a fighter, but they look at it like someone who helps promote boxing. Mike Tyson and Cesar Chavez, Jr. is amazing so it was another validation that I’m here promoting the sport,”
Despite not being trained as a boxer, Sylvester Stallone’s effort to put the sport on the cinematic map earned him the right to be considered a big supporter of the boxing sport.