Muhammad Ali vs. Sylvester Stallone: The Incredible Battle at the Oscars That Exposed Rocky’s Controversial Origins

Muhammad Ali And Sylvester Stallone Clashed At The 1977 Academy Awards

A viral video circulating shows Sylvester Stallone being surprised by Muhammad Ali at the 1977 Academy Awards. The boxer seems to take offense at the actor and says, “You stole my script! (For Rocky)” Then the two gentlemen engage in a fistfight that garners a lot of cheers from the audience.

The entire fight was obviously scripted and apparently, both of them came up with the idea backstage when they found out that they were presenting together. However, even though Muhammad Ali was joking, he was right about that accusation. Even Sylvester Stallone admitted that it was the fight between Chuck Wepner and Ali in 1975 that inspired the actor to pen Rocky.


How One Muhammad Ali Fight Led Sylvester Stallone To Write Rocky

In the 1975 fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, it was Ali who clinched the victory. But what the fight is remembered for is Wepner, also known as The Bayonne Bleeder’s, superb resistance. No one expected Wepner to last as long as he did or even knock down Ali. But he managed to do the impossible in round nine before caving in the final round. Sylvester Stallone talked about how this match inspired him. He said:

“He (Chuck Wepner) was known as the Bayonne Bleeder, and it was clear that his only notable contribution to the history of pugilism would be just how badly Ali would destroy him. No one considered whether he could win the fight, that was out of the question, but everyone was wondering just how much of a beating he’d take — and how long it would last — and how much pain he’d absorb before he crashed to the canvas.”



The odds were stacked against Wepner and no one had any faith in the guy

But he turned the tables when he knocked down the great Muhammad Ali. Stallone explained:

“So I’m sitting there watching the fight, with an especially bloodthirsty crowd, and it was terrible. The guy didn’t even look like a fighter. He was terribly awkward and unskilled, and he looked like a heavy bag with eyeballs. It was really sad. Then, all of a sudden, something incredible happened. From nowhere, Wepner knocked down the immortal Ali.”

This one thing made the crowd turn around and start supporting Wepner because he had done the impossible. Also, in doing so he had made everyone believe that they could do it too. Sylvester Stallone was inspired by this personal triumph of the underdog and made Rocky about him. He said:


“Suddenly, he went from being a complete joke to being somebody whom everybody watching could identify with… So it made everyone think to himself, ‘If this totally inept guy can put down Muhammad Ali, who knows what I can do.’ So I’m sitting there watching all this, and at some point I realize that the whole thing’s a metaphor, and I realized that it wasn’t really about boxing. Actually, Rocky was never really about boxing, it was about personal triumph.”

It’s clear that there’s something in the Rocky franchise that still attracts audiences today, more than 40 years after the first film. It looks like it is this feeling of accomplishing the impossible that has made the films such a hit.


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