“He was called the Bayonne Bleeder for the punishment he took during his fights”, writes Tom Denelson of Inside Boxing.
“Chuck Wepner must have felt that the heavyweight championship was his as he saw Muhammad Ali go down as a result of a right hand to the chest. It was not to be as Ali staggered back to his feet and continued to batter the ‘Bayonne Bleeder’ and eventually stopping Wepner with but 19 seconds left in the fight”.
Wepner never won a major championship, but he did become immortalized in history in a way that no one – not even he – could have imagined.
On that fateful night, as Chuck Wepner came back to take blow after brutal blow from Ali, there was a young, impressionable and unknown Philadelphia resident watching on closed circuit TV.
Inspired by Wepner’s relentless comebacks, this young man went home that night and wrote the screenplay for what would become not only one of the greatest movies of all time, but also gave birth to arguably the greatest American icon.
The writer of this movie, would later go on to become hugely popular in hundreds of countries around the world, as the Italian Stallion – and thus “Rocky” was born!
“Wepner was what one would call ‘a catcher“, writes Tom, “a fighter who often used his head to block the other guy’s punches- not the kind of strategy that leads to long careers. Wepner actually began fighting after he left the Marines at the age of 24 and never truly learned the craft of boxing. At 6’5” and over 220 pounds, Wepner was a giant in his era and his style was plodding and awkward. He constantly pressured his opponent until he either won or was knocked out. He never truly cared how many shots he would absorb before landing the telling blow”.
Wepner was offered a choice by Stallone – receive $70,000 upfront, or 1% of the profits of a movie that was not yet made.
Wepner – who had never heard of Stallone – opted for cash upfront in lieu of unseen profits. And he lost over $8,000,000 (yes, 8 million dollars) as Rocky went on to make over $800 million in profits the world over.
Chuck Wepner is believed to have retired a rather poor, liquor salesman in Bayonne.
Stallone had an idea after watching Wepner that night. He could have gone home that night, drank beer, watched TV, and gone to bed. Instead, he was inspired and motivated enough to go beyond 32 previously-rejected scripts, to write his 33rd script, for the next three days.
Rocky was almost never made as producers went running because Stallone insisted that he play “Rocky Balboa” himself. Rocky was born because Stallone had initiative. Stallone was born because Stallone had initiative.
Ideas are not worth the paper they are written on, without initiative.
While I was growing up, my father used to say, “Opportunity is like a beautiful woman coming towards you very fast. She has long hair at the front of her head, and completely bald at the back. The only way to catch her is as she approaches you. Let her go past, and you will have nothing to catch her with”.
What will you do when opportunity strikes?
Will you be a Wepner? Or a Stallone?
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