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ESPN Films the Real Rocky: Story of Chuck Wepner Inspired Cinema History

BAYONNE, NJ - JULY 6:  Chuck Wepner former boxing heavyweight contender, poses at his home on on July 6, 2005  in Bayonne, New Jersey. He is 66 years old at the time of this photo.  He fought from 1964 thru 1978.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Michael DixonAnalyst IIIJanuary 17, 2017

On Tuesday, viewers of ESPN's "The Real Rocky" documentary will hear the story of Chuck Wepner. If you're not familiar with the story, you can watch the first "Rocky" movie and get a pretty good read of what actually happened. 

ESPN's Eric Raskin detailed Wepner's plight. He fought (and lost) against both Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali. His fight with Ali had significant parallels to the first fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.

Raskin details Sylvester Stallone's actions after seeing Wepner's fight:

"At a theater in Los Angeles, struggling actor Sylvester Stallone watched the Ali-Wepner fight and promptly went home and banged out the script for a little movie called "Rocky." It wasn't based on a true story—not directly. But it was inspired by and borrowed heavily from a true story."

It's amazing to think about this. The Rocky franchise is insanely popular to people of all eras. If that story is at all true, what would have happened had Ali dropped Wepner in the early rounds?

Would "Rocky" not exist, or would Stallone have just found his inspiration from another fight, or fighter?

Personally, I don't want to get too much into the legal end of it. I certainly wish Wepner got a little bit more due for his real life struggle, but I understand that it's not a black and white issue.

What is amazing is how similar these two fights actually were.

First have a look at Wepner's knockdown of Ali, which game in the ninth round, which comes roughly at the 4:41 mark.

Now, take a look at Rocky Balboa's first round knockdown of Apollo Creed.

The similarities aren't coincidental.

Having said all of this, I am happy that Wepner is getting recognized by ESPN. The Rocky series is one of the most popular movie series in history, sports or otherwise. It's about time that the real life inspiration gets recognized on a grand scale.

It doesn't look like I am alone in that thinking.

Guy Bezzar: Tuesday, October 25 at 6:50 p.m. EDT

Jonathan Moreland: Tuesday, October 25 at 7:17 p.m. EDT

Aaron Martin: Tuesday, October 25 at 7:35 p.m. EDT

Personally, I love the Rocky movies. The first three were released before I was born, and the fourth was made when I was a baby. Still, it's never been outdated for myself, or people of my era. It's a timeless story, that can be watched over and over again.

But what's even greater than the Hollywood story is the real story. With Rocky Balboa, we try to identify with the character. As a matter of fact, that character has done a great job of blurring the line between reality and fiction.

Still, that line is there. It's not there with Wepner.

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