Rourke was in Venice for the premiere of The Wrestler, in which he plays Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, a past-his-prime professional who tries for one last shot at glory.
The part is not such a stretch for the 9 1/2 Weeks star, who took an extended break away from Hollywood to become a full-time boxer for five years.
At the 1971 Florida Golden Gloves, Rourke suffered another concussion in a boxing match.
After being told by doctors to take a year off and rest, Rourke temporarily retired from the ring.
He played Ritchie, Dennis Christopher's bullying and ill-fated co-worker in the 1980 slasher film Fade to Black.
However, it was in 1981, with his portrayal of an arsonist in Body Heat, that Rourke first received significant attention, despite his modest time on screen.
Rodriguez was the number one–rated middleweight boxer in the world and was training for his match with world champion Nino Benvenuti.
Rourke claims to have received a concussion from his sparring match with Rodriguez.
During the 1980s, Rourke starred in the comedy-drama Diner (1982), the drama Rumble Fish (1983), the crime-black comedy film The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), and the erotic drama 9½ Weeks (1986), and received critical praise for his work in the Charles Bukowski biopic Barfly and the horror mystery Angel Heart (both 1987).
In 1991 Rourke, who had trained as a boxer in his early years, left acting and became a professional boxer for a time.
Rourke's performance in the film The Pope of Greenwich Village alongside Daryl Hannah and Eric Roberts also caught the attention of critics, although the film was not financially successful.