After being told by doctors to take a year off and rest, Rourke temporarily retired from the ring.
In 1969 Rourke, then weighing 140 pounds (63.5 kg), sparred with former World Welterweight Champion Luis Rodríguez.
Rodriguez was the number one–rated middleweight boxer in the world and was training for his match with world champion Nino Benvenuti.
Rourke got the part and immediately became enamored with acting.
Borrowing $400 from his sister, he went to New York (to elude Florida police who wanted to arrest him for burglary) and took private lessons with Actors Studio teacher Sandra Seacat.
The two reportedly became engaged in November of 2009, with plans to marry at some point in 2010.