It was no surprise that Rocky was greeted with such enthusiasm in 1976. Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight champion, still basking in his epic, late-career victories over George Foreman and then Joe Frazier in their third fight. And the American boxing team in the Olympics earlier that year had introduced future stars Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinks brothers—Ray and Leon—on prime time. If the timing was fortunate, the execution of the movie was Hollywood genius—the genius being Sylvester Stallone, who wrote and starred in the role of a lifetime. The character and story lines were brilliantly dramatized in the musically enhanced, multicamera fight scenes. The lovable knuckle-head who finds inspiration through opportunity and love endured and endured and endured, as does the fight movie genre. Now they’re making one about Chuck Wepner, the underdog who fought the fight of his life against Muhammad Ali, inspiring Stallone to imagine Rocky.
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