How “Rocky” Changed My Life by Jackie Kallen

The year was 1976, I was a young mother of two sons. I was also a newspaper columnist, covering the entertainment world. Reviewing movies was part of my job, but little did I know that I was about to see a film that would change my life.

A small, independent movie called “Rocky” opened with little fanfare. It was made for under a million dollars and would go on to gross over 100 million dollars. But no one could have predicted that. It was written by and starred an unknown named Sylvester Stallone.

As we all know now, this story of a lovable underdog became one of the most iconic films of all times and spawned several sequels. It made a megastar out of Stallone and turned the whole world onto boxing.

Fast forward two years and I found myself covering sports as well as entertainment. My boss sends me to interview a young Detroit boxer named Thomas Hearns and I fall in love with the sport. I went on to work as Hearns’s publicist from then on and I was soon managing my own fighters. And now, 45 years later, I am known as “The First Lady of Boxing.”

But back to Stallone. It was 1981 and Hearns was set to fight Sugar Ray Leonard on September 16th. The fight was at Caesar’s Palace and there was a big press conference before the fight as well as a party. I’m busy, doing my job as publicist, and I find out that Mr. Stallone himself is in attendance. I made it my business to meet him.

Stallone was gracious, friendly, and welcoming. I instantly liked him. After meeting him, I was a dedicated fan. I have seen almost all of his movies over the years and still consider him my favorite actor.

Over the years, our paths crossed often – mostly at fights. He was always the same: soft-spoken and warm. His interest in the sport of boxing has been lifelong and he has led more new fans to the sport than anyone I know.

“Rocky” humanized boxers. It showed the world that even a man (or woman) who hits people for a living can be sensitive and loving. We learned that being a champ takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

The years went by and in 2004, I learned that NBC was about to develop a show called “The Contender” starring Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard. I contacted the producer, Mark Burnett, and landed a role on the show. Here I was—decades after our first meeting—working side by side with “Rocky.”

As luck would have it, Sly, Leonard, and I shared the same dressing room. For the entire time that we shot the show, the three of us were together daily, sharing stories, and enjoying the experience. I came to respect Stallone more than ever and learned even more about his training habits and daily nutrition. He lives and breathes FITNESS. That’s why, at 76 years old, he is still a force to be reckoned with.

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