Was The Real Rocky – Sly Would Pick My Brain Every Day!” Says Fighter/Movie Actor Jack O’Halloran

By James Slater - 10/12/2023 - Comments

As all fight fans/movie fans/boxing fans/Sylvester Stallone fans know, there have been, over the years, numerous real-life pugilists who were credited, in one way or another, for having inspired the “ham ‘n egger” turned heavyweight champion who would go on to be loved by millions. Yes, the ‘Rocky’ story is a great one, and it always will be.

But who was the fighter who really inspired Sly to put pen to paper, and to then hold out after multiple offers came in from the studio brass to have him hand over to another, far more famous actor, his brainchild, his creation – his hero (this when Stallone was all but broke, his sheer belief in holding onto his script as admirable as any display of defiance we have seen from any fighter who was on the ropes)?

The name Chuck Wepner instantly springs to mind. While some fans say Joe Frazier was Stallone’s real inspiration for the Philly slugger who worked in a butcher shop before making good. Others say real-life Philly pug Gus Dorazio was the man. There is no doubt, Sly did his homework as he got busy penning his masterpiece of a script.

But might another star of the silver screen have been the main influence for ‘Rocky?’

You’ve seen the great and fantastic ‘Superman’ movies: the original, 1978 film, and the equally fun and fabulous sequel from 1980, I mean (forget what came later). And right there, in the muted role of the evil yet lovable villain ‘Non,’ was fighter turned actor Jack O’Halloran – all 6’6” and around 245 pounds of him. And it just could be that Jack, who was brought up by infamous gangster Albert Anastasia, was the real, true, honest to goodness inspiration for ‘Rocky.’

It’s worth remembering that O’Halloran, fighting out of Boston, was at one time refused a licence to box due to so-called mafia connections (‘Rocky,’ you will recall, was all-but handled and funded by a street mob guy named ‘Gazzo’ in the movie) .

Here, in an interview with Slater’s Boxing on YouTube, 80 year old O’Halloran speaks about his uncredited role as Sly’s inspiration for ‘Rocky.’

“The ‘Rocky’ story was my life,” O’Halloran said. “I was the gangster fighter in Philadelphia. I did a picture called ‘Farewell, My Lovely,’ which Stallone had a small part in. And he was out in California, and he was talking about writing a boxing script – and he picked my brain every day! He’d never been to Philadelphia. He didn’t know shit about Philly. I told him about the Waterfront and all the other stuff.”

Interesting. Stallone was indeed an unknown actor who, like O’Halloran, had a part in the 1975 movie that starred Robert Mitchum, and it was that year when Sly saw the Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner fight, and his conviction to write ‘Rocky’ was complete. But how much info, how much juice, how much inside stuff did the future superstar glean from former pro turned actor O’Halloran?

Check out the at times fascinating interview O’Halloran did with Slater’s Boxing on YouTube. Jack, who went 34-21-2(17) and who faced the likes of George Foreman, Ken Norton, Cleveland Williams, Joe Bugner, Boone Kirkman, Rahman Ali, Ron Lyle, and others, really does have an engrossing story to tell…….a true-life story!