ByRedmond Bacon, writer at
Have realised my dream of finally living in Berlin. I like movies, techno, and talking too much in bars.

From The Champ to Rocky, Raging Bull to The Fighter, boxing pictures continue to captivate audiences whatever era they are made or set in. Although the sport itself continues to intensely interest people, such as The Fight Of The Century Pacquiao/Mayweather showdown last year, it is usually the personalities attached to boxing that elevate the material into some of the best American films.

Last year continued that tradition with Creed and Southpaw, both expanding the notion of what a boxing film could be. To avoid that crowded slate Bleed For This, starring Fantastic Four star Miles Teller, was pushed back to this year. From the trailer below it looks like it was worth the wait:

Having already impressed critics and audiences alike with performances in films such as Whiplash and The Spectacular Now, Miles Teller will be using this kind of picture to gun for Oscar gold. You know what the Academy loves though? True stories. And there is a remarkable one behind Bleed For This, considered by many to be the greatest sporting comeback of all time.

As Scorsese, executive producer, remarked when talking about the story, it was until recently, the:

The Pazmanian Devil

Open Road Films
Open Road Films

Born in Cranston, Rhode Island in 1962, Vinny Pazienza is a second-generation Italian-American. His father, according to him, had fled Italy after apparently attacking a Nazi with a pitchfork. He started training at the age of five, sparring as a kid with fellow legends such as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Having completed over 100 amateur fights, he made the step into the big time.

He had an idiosyncratic technique, for which he gained the name 'The Pazmanian Devil'. Adopting an orthodox stand, in which you place the left foot in front of the right, thus showing your opponent your weaker side, his technique consisted of fighting fast and with extreme aggression.

Open Road Films
Open Road Films

He also had a unique way of preparing for matches. By getting mad:

It evidently worked. By the time he was 28 he had won the World Championship two times. As he said of his skill in the ring:

“I thought I was going to be the next white Muhammad Ali”

Then one day, everything changed:

The Disastrous Crash

Open Road Films
Open Road Films

Driving at around fifty miles an hour with a friend, and without a seatbelt, the car they were in lost control and scuttled into nearby traffic:

"a big town car hit us And that was it. Whiplash.”

Even in the throes of mortal danger, he still thought about boxing:

“My last thought was I’m never going to defend my world title"

Breaking two crucial bones in his neck, a halo ring had to be placed around his neck. As a result, he was told he would never fight again, and had to relinquish his junior middleweight title.

Never Giving Up

Open Road Films
Open Road Films

His doctor said that if he went back to boxing it could throw his entire spinal cord out of gear, with potentially lethal results. He didn't care. Remarkably, after a mere four days after being discharged from the hospital, he went down into his parents basement, and started lifting weights again. It wasn't easy:

“I put my hand on two 30-pound dumbbells. I’m taking deep breaths. I can do this. Gonna do this. I lift them up. OWWW! And I immediately dropped them. Pain shot through my body. My head started pounding around the screws.”

Yet, he rationalised the pain as just that: mere pain, not something capable of stopping him. He went back to the weights:

"I grab the 25-pound ones and I lift em. AHHH! I throw ’em over my shoulder and start doing shoulder presses with them. And that was it. I sucked up the pain."

Hiding it from his parents, he started training again. Three months later the halo ring was lifted. He was cleared to box.

Like This True Story? Check Out:

Champion Again

Open Road Films
Open Road Films

Thirteen months after the accident, he returned to the ring, beating Middleweight Champion Luis Santana by a unanimous decision. He would later go on to win the World championship a further two times, including beating "Hands of Stone" Roberto Duran twice. He describes the fighter — who has his own biopic Hands of Stone out this year, played by Édgar Ramírez and co-starring Robert De Niro as his coach — as one of his greatest opponents:

"I was actually looking forward to seeing how hard he hit, to see if he could hurt me. But when I step in the ring, I refuse to feel pain. I won't let it last. And even when I'm not at the top of my game, I still fight with all my heart and soul. And that's how it was against Duran"

He won that battle after ten rounds, and continued to be an impressive boxer until his retirement. His overall record is extremely impressive, with fifty wins (thirty knockouts) and only ten losses. He remains happily unmarried and optimistic about life:

“I’ve done my thing here. I want to see my movie, rock out for another 5 or 10 years, and then I’m cool. No one is changing the champ’s underwear. That’s for goddamn sure.”

With such an incredible story to tell, here's hoping that Bleed For This will do it justice.


Are You Excited To See Bleed For This?

Source: The Boston Globe


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