By Gregory Crofton
“THE REAL ROCKY,” a film about Chuck Wepner, a boxer from New Jersey, starts with boxing reporters sitting around and talking about fighters and fights. Exactly the kind of thing I’m not interested in. Despite the beginning, this is a fantastic film packed with little known story lines.
Did you know James Brown botched the National Anthem when he sang it to open Wepner’s fight against Muhammad Ali? Or that Ali told Wepner to call him a nigger on a television talk show before the fight for publicity?
ESPN released “THE REAL ROCKY” in 2011 as part of their “30 for 30” sports documentary series. Finding out that Jeff Feuerzeig, who directed “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” one of my favorite documentaries, is what finally made me take the plunge. This film is great because it’s packed with stories, but it sets itself apart with punchy editing and innovative almost interactive art and sound direction.
Sylvester Stallone, not once but several times, co-opted details from Wepner’s life story and to make his “ROCKY” films. Wepner was many things in his life: liquor salesman, marine, playboy, boxer, drug courier and an ex-con. And he’s still alive today and as sharp as ever.
The slap of a stick on the canvas of a boxing ring. The hot flash of a camera bulb. Feuerzeig is a master. You buy a copy of the film here. Hollywood has also made a version of the documentary, released last year, called “The Bleeder” starring Liev Shreiber.