Wepner, 'Real Rocky,' gets story on ESPN

World heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali follows through

World heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali follows through on a punch towards challenger Chuck Wepner during a heavyweight title fight on March 24, 1975 at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Ali retained the title in a 15-round decision. (Credit: Getty Images)

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Chuck Wepner said he feels pretty good for a 72-year-old most famous for bleeding profusely in public, with a resume that includes 338 stitches over his eyes and a nose broken 11 times.

"I just saved my money up and bought a new head," he said.

If you liked that joke, Wepner has plenty more, thanks to a natural sense of humor that he has honed during 36 years of attention for a fight he lost -- once in real life, then again in reel life.

"Oh, I've marketed myself very well," he said. "I do appearances at malls, kiss babies, shake hands. I will do anything to get attention."

Wepner spoke Friday from Philadelphia, where he attended the premiere of "The Real Rocky," a look at his life, career and legal battle to secure a sliver of the vast riches generated by the "Rocky" franchise. Its TV premiere is at 8 o'clock Tuesday night on ESPN.

Directed with a stylized touch by Jeff Feuerzeig -- "My goal going in was to make a unique film," he said -- it doesn't have time to get into every nook and cranny of Wepner's complicated path.

But it does a fine job exploring every nook and cranny of his infamous face during an interview in extreme close-up that extended over five days.

Weird experience? "I think it was more weird for the people who had to take the close-up," Wepner said.

The film chronicles his 15-round fight against Muhammad Ali in 1975 and what it meant to a young, unknown Sylvester Stallone. Eventually, the man known as the Bayonne Bleeder had to press for legal recognition confirming he was the model for Stallone's Rocky Balboa character.

Turns out, though, the "Real Rocky" is a more colorful character than the fictional one.

One of Feuerzeig's best ideas was having veteran boxing writers sit at a table talking about Wepner at the Ringside Tavern in Jersey City.

The scene, recorded four years ago, was inspired by the kibitzing comedians in Woody Allen's 1984 film "Broadway Danny Rose." Among them are Vic Ziegel and Bill Gallo, who since have died.

The old writers make it clear Wepner is one of a kind.

"He is the only man in the world who fought Muhammad Ali, Andre the Giant and a grizzly bear," Feuerzeig said. "You can't beat that."

 

Revis-Francesa update

You'd have thought the radio-active half life of Friday's Mike Francesa interview with Darrelle Revis would have left it mostly dissipated after the Jets played and won another game.

But no! Revis addressed it Sunday and it came up often on WFAN's morning show Monday, during which co-host Craig Carton criticized Francesa's "ridiculous'' line of questioning and alleged "agenda.''

Callers continued to discuss the interview with Francesa from the start of his show Monday, largely ignoring the Jets' victory over the Chargers. And the World Series. And college football. And, well, pretty much everything else.

A caller asked Francesa about Carton's "agenda'' assertion. "I'm not too worried about what he thinks, to be honest with you,'' Francesa said. "That doesn't really concern me.''

Oh my goodness gracious.

Silly as it all has been, WFAN has enjoyed a bonanza of free publicity plus juicy content and conflict. It's a win-win. As even Carton said of the Revis hullabaloo: "It was great radio.''

 

Sound bitesBaseball scored a rare ratings victory over the NFL on Sunday when Game 4 of the World Series averaged 10.1 percent of homes in major markets on Fox compared with 8.4 for "Sunday Night Football'' on NBC -- thanks mostly to the Saints' 62-7 rout of the Colts. Even though the World Series beat football, its rating was lower than when it lost head-to-head to the NFL on NBC last year, 11.8 to 10.4 . . . CBS moved the Nov. 5 Game of the Century between Alabama and LSU to prime time. ESPN had to approve because of its nighttime rights. The network said CBS gave it "future scheduling considerations.'' . . . At 7 p.m. Thursday, SNY offers an inside look at the physical rehab of Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers player who has been in a wheelchair since a devastating injury last fall . . . NBC Sports will move most operations to Stamford, Conn., partly to consolidate personnel scattered geographically.

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