Vinny Pazienza was a five-time world boxing champion, and the colorful brawler nicknamed “The Pazmanian Devil” had plenty of career highlights in the ring. But the bout that may best exemplify his heart and grit is his 1995 title fight against the legendary Roy Jones Jr., in which he was pummeled to a bloody pulp and knocked out in the sixth round.
Three times he was sent to the canvas by the champion, and three times, he courageously shook off the blows and tried to continue. There was absolutely no quit in him, and even as the referee finally stepped in and cradled his head to protect him after the third brutal knockdown, Pazienza could be seen lobbying for more.
Pazienza always believed he could come back, because he had already come back from even greater odds. In 1991, one month after he won the light middleweight title, Pazienza broke his neck in a car accident and was cautioned he might never walk again.
In Bleed for This, Miles Teller stars as Pazienza in one of sport’s greatest comeback stories: the true-life tale of how the Rhode Island brawler tragically lost almost everything just as he reached the pinnacle of his profession and how he defied medical science and common sense to return to the ring and win another championship belt. Aaron Eckhart costars as renowned boxing trainer Kevin Rooney, and Katey Sagal and Ciaran Hinds play Paz’s understandably concerned parents.
In the exclusive trailer above (debuting at PEOPLE, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated), Pazienza works overtime to drop those last few pounds in order to make weight for a 1988 title bout against Roger Mayweather, and thanks to Paz’s male thong at the press conference, it’s clear that Teller (Whiplash) put in the necessary gym work to convincingly portray a boxer.
After the car accident, Pazienza is saddled with a halo that is screwed into his skull to help his recuperation, but he refuses to settle for anything but the life he once had. “I’m not done,” Teller says. “I got more in me.”
His return to the ring includes some bloody brawls that made Rocky Balboa fights seem tame, but no one who ever got in the ring with Pazienza after his accident wanted it more than he did.
Directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room) and executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, Bleed for This opens in limited release on Nov. 4 before going wide on Nov. 23.