If Ali remains the most recognizable boxing figure of the 20th century, Rocky Balboa, at least in the public consciousness, probably ranks a close second.
Stallone had drawn his inspiration for Rocky, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year (the defeated competition included All The President’s Men, Network, and Taxi Driver) from a real-life title fight in Cleveland a year earlier, when a journeyman heavyweight named Chuck Wepner lasted until the 15th round against the great Ali. Wepner, who was known for reasons devoid of irony as “The Bayonne Bleeder,” was even credited with a ninth-round knockdown.
On the evening of that bout, The Bayonne Bleeder presented his wife with a filmy blue negligee and instructed her to wear it later that night when, he promised, “you’re gonna be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world.”
Much later that night, having been taken first to a hospital to have his face stitched back together, Wepner stumbled back to his hotel room, to find his wife sitting up in bed wearing the filmy blue negligee.
“Well,” Mrs. Wepner asked her husband, “is he coming up here, or do I have to go to his room?”