McDermott: Beware the Wepner effect

Boxer Chuck Wepner may not be a familiar name to many people, but Brian McDermott has used him to warn his Leeds players not to underestimate Featherstone on Friday.

The Rhinos are big favourites to see off Rovers in the last eight of the Challenge Cup, but McDermott has told his players not to to make the same mistake that legendary heavyweight Muhammad Ali once did against Wepner.

“If we beat them we’re eighty minutes away from Wembley and that’s a really exciting position to be in,” said McDermott.

“It’s not something that makes you relax or ease off the gas – it’s something you’re really hungry for. We’ve got to beat Featherstone first and we’ve been keen to stress upon our players this week about a fella Ali once boxed called Chuck Wepner.

“He was just a journeyman boxer and you could tell with the tempo and pace Ali boxed against him that he wasn’t interested.

“He ended up getting floored and Ali got up off the deck and you could tell he was hacked off at being put down.

“For the next four or five rounds he was absolutely just trying knock Chuck out. He boxed at an increased tempo and beat Chuck, but no-one ever remembers the fight. They just remember Wepner flooring Muhammad Ali who had only been on the deck two or three times before.

“Interestingly Sylvester Stallone went to watch that fight and that’s where he thought of the idea of Rocky.

“I told the players that story – they had no idea who I was talking about, but our attitude towards Featherstone will be in good nick.”

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