|Real name||Charles Wepner|
|Nickname(s)||The Bayonne Bleeder|
|Height||6 ft 5 in (196 cm)|
|Born||February 26, 1939|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Wins by KO||17|
Charles Wepner (born February 26, 1939) is an American former professional boxer who fought as a heavyweight. As a world-ranked contender, he fell just seconds short of a full fifteen rounds with world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 1975 title fight. Wepner also scored notable wins over Randy Neumann and former World Heavyweight Champion Ernie Terrell. He was also the last man to fight undisputed world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.
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Wepner learned to fight on the streets of Bayonne, New Jersey, saying, "This was a tough town with a lot of people from the docks and the naval base and you had to fight to survive". Wepner was about a year old when he moved in with his grandmother on 28th Street near Hudson Boulevard (now Kennedy Boulevard). He was raised by his mother and grandparents, living in a room that was a converted coal shed until he was 13. He was an avid player of sports in his youth, playing basketball for the Police Athletic League. At Bayonne High School, his height helped him get a spot on the basketball team.
Wepner opted to join the military, joining the U.S. Marines, where he became a member of the boxing team, developing a reputation for being able to withstand other boxers' punches, and becoming a military champion at one of the airbases. A 1975 Sports Illustrated article said that Wepner had saved the lives of three Marine pilots, pulling them from blazing airplanes.
Wepner turned professional in 1964 and became a popular fighter on the Northeast's Club Boxing circuit, fighting throughout the county, including arenas close to his boyhood home such as North Bergen and Secaucus. Nicknamed "The Bayonne Bleeder", he began posting many wins and some losses. He had formerly boxed while a member of the United States Marine Corps, and had worked as a bouncer before turning pro. He was the New Jersey state heavyweight boxing champion, but after losing fights to George Foreman (by cut eye stoppage in three) and Sonny Liston (by knockout in ten) many boxing fans thought that his days as a contender were numbered. After the fight with Liston, Wepner needed 72 stitches in his face. Wepner said after his career was over that Liston was the hardest puncher he ever fought.
However, after losing to Joe Bugner by a cut eye stoppage in three in England, Wepner won nine of his next eleven fights, including victories over Charlie Polite and former WBA heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell.
Muhammad Ali fight
In 1975, it was announced Wepner would challenge Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (February 9, 1975, Page 4-C), Carl Lombardo put up $1.3 million for the Wepner-Ali heavyweight title bout. According to a Time article, "In Stitches", Ali was guaranteed $1.5 million and Wepner signed for $100,000. This was considerably more than Wepner had ever earned; thus, he "needed no coaxing." Wepner spent eight weeks near the Catskill Mountains under the guidance of Al Braverman (trainer and noted cutman) and Bill Prezant (manager). Prezant prophesied that the fight would be a big surprise. This bout was the first time Wepner had been able to train full-time: Since 1970 his typical day had consisted of road work in the morning, followed by his job selling liquor during the day. Then he was able to spend his nights working out and sparring in Bayonne boxing clubs. The fight was held on March 24 at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio, south of Cleveland. Before the fight, a reporter asked Wepner if he thought he could survive in the ring with the champion, to which Wepner allegedly answered, "I've been a survivor my whole life ... if I survived the Marines, I can survive Ali."
In the ninth round Wepner scored a knockdown, which Ali said occurred because Wepner was stepping on his foot. Wepner went to his corner and said to his manager Al Braverman, "Al, start the car. We're going to the bank. We are millionaires." To this, Wepner's manager replied: "You better turn around. He's getting up and he looks pissed off."
In the remaining rounds, Ali decisively outboxed Wepner and opened up cuts above both Wepner's eyes and broke his nose. Wepner was far behind on the scorecards when Ali knocked him down with 19 seconds left in the 15th round. The referee counted to seven before calling a technical knockout.
After Wepner's fight, Sylvester Stallone wrote the script for Rocky, which was released in theatres in 1976. Like Wepner, (Rocky) Balboa lasts 15 rounds, but unlike Wepner, he actually "goes the distance". For years after Rocky was released, Stallone denied that Wepner provided inspiration for the movie.
Wepner's last fight was on May 2, 1978, for the New Jersey state heavyweight championship against a new rising prospect, Scott Frank, noted for a useful heavy left hook. Wepner lost the fight in a 12-round decision, but again proved durable, Ring magazine noted. He announced his retirement after the fight.
After his retirement from boxing, Wepner began abusing drugs. In 1979, Sylvester Stallone wanted to cast Wepner as a sparring partner in Rocky II, but he failed the audition due to his drug problems.
In November 1985, Wepner was arrested on drug charges when he was found with four ounces of cocaine in an undercover police investigation. Under a plea-bargain agreement, he was sentenced in 1988 to ten years in prison. He served 17 months in Northern State Prison, Newark, New Jersey, then spent another 20 months in New Jersey's intensive supervision program.
As of 2010, Wepner had been working for 10 years with his third wife Linda in the liquor sales field for Majestic Wines and Spirits in Carlstadt, New Jersey, and was an expert in consumer liquors, wines and spirits.
A film about Wepner's career was released in 2012, and ESPN aired a documentary titled The Real Rocky on October 25, 2011. The ESPN film features a clip of Wepner's ninth round knockdown of Muhammad Ali in their 1975 world heavyweight title bout.
Wepner occasionally makes ringside appearances at boxing cards in his home state of New Jersey, signing autographs and posing for photos with boxing fans. On October 12, 2012, Wepner appeared ringside with former World Light Heavyweight champion Mike Rossman in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at a Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City fight card featuring a WBA NABA Lightweight title bout in the main event. Wepner held the WBA NABA heavyweight title during his boxing career.
Portrayals and inspirations
- Sylvester Stallone's character Rocky Balboa and portions of the Rocky film series were inspired by the life of Chuck Wepner. For instance, it was speculated that a scene from the 1982 film Rocky III had been influenced by Wepner's fight against Andre the Giant, as the movie features a match versus wrestler Hulk Hogan as "Thunderlips", who throws Rocky out of the ring.
- Liev Schreiber played the role of Wepner in a sports film, Chuck.
- Zach McGowan played the role of Wepner in another sports film, The Brawler.
Professional boxing record
This record table needs editing for compliance with Wikipedia's Manual of Style. In particular, it has problems with MOS:BOXING/RECORD. (August 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|35 Wins (17 knockouts), 14 Losses, 2 Draws |
|Loss||35-14-2||Scott Frank||PTS||12||26/09/1978||Ice World, Totowa, New Jersey, United States||Lost USA New Jersey State heavyweight title|
|Win||35-13-2||Tom Healy||KO||5||02/06/1978||Old Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||34-13-2||Johnny Blaine||KO||3||07/04/1978||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States|
|Loss||33-13-2||Horst Geisler||TKO||10||20/05/1977||Broome County Arena, Binghamton, New York, United States|
|Loss||33-12-2||Mike Schutte||PTS||10||19/02/1977||Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa|
|Loss||33-11-2||Duane Bobick||TKO||6||02/10/1976||Utica College Sports Complex, Utica, New York, United States|
|Win||33-10-2||Tommy Sheehan||TKO||2||06/05/1976||Kearny, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||32-10-2||Johnny Dolan||KO||3||29/11/1975||Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States|
|Win||31-10-2||Johnny Evans||TKO||4||13/11/1975||Portland, Maine, United States|
|Loss||30-10-2||Muhammad Ali||TKO||15||24/03/1975||Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio, United States||For WBA and WBC heavyweight titles|
|Win||30-9-2||Terry Hinke||TKO||11||03/09/1974||Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States|
|Win||29-9-2||Charley Polite||KO||4||23/05/1974||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||28-9-2||Randy Neumann||TKO||6||08/03/1974||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States||Retained USA New Jersey State heavyweight title|
|Win||27-9-2||Billy Williams||PTS||10||17/01/1974||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||26-9-2||Ernie Terrell||PTS||12||23/06/1973||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States||Won vacant National Americas heavyweight title|
|Win||25-9-2||Billy Marquart||PTS||12||15/03/1973||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States||Retained USA New Jersey State heavyweight title|
|Win||24-9-2||John Clohessy||PTS||10||07/12/1972||Bayonne, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||23-9-2||Randy Neumann||PTS||12||15/04/1972||Jersey City, New Jersey, United States||Won USA New Jersey State heavyweight title|
|Loss||22-9-2||Randy Neumann||PTS||12||09/12/1971||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States||Lost USA New Jersey State heavyweight title|
|Win||22-8-2||Mike Boswell||TKO||10||14/10/1971||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||21-8-2||Jesse Crown||KO||4||16/09/1971||Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States|
|Loss||20-8-2||Jerry Judge||TKO||5||06/01/1971||Catholic Youth Center, Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Loss||20-7-2||Joe Bugner||TKO||3||08/09/1970||Empire Pool, Wembley, London, England, United Kingdom|
|Loss||20-6-2||Sonny Liston||RTD||9||29/06/1970||Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||20-5-2||Manuel Ramos||UD||10||26/01/1970||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||19-5-2||Pedro Agosto||PTS||10||19/12/1969||Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States|
|Loss||18-5-2||George Foreman||TKO||3||18/08/1969||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Loss||18-4-2||José Roman||PTS||10||22/06/1969||Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|Win||18-3-2||Mike Bruce||PTS||8||28/04/1969||Secaucus, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||17-3-2||Roberto Davila||MD||10||14/03/1969||Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||16-3-2||Jerry Tomasetti||TKO||1||13/12/1968||Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||15-3-2||Mert Brownfield||PTS||10||09/11/1968||Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Win||14-3-2||Forest Ward||TKO||7||28/09/1968||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||13-3-2||Mike Bruce||PTS||8||20/05/1968||Plaza Arena, Secaucus, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||12-3-2||Eddie Vick||SD||10||30/04/1968||Walpole, Massachusetts, United States|
|Win||11-3-2||Clay Thomas||TKO||3||22/01/1968||Secaucus, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||10-3-2||Charlie Harris||TKO||6||27/11/1967||Secaucus, New Jersey, United States|
|Loss||9-3-2||Jerry Tomasetti||TKO||5||19/07/1967||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||9-2-2||Don McAteer||TKO||5||28/04/1967||Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States||Won vacant USA New Jersey State heavyweight title|
|Win||8-2-2||Dave Centi||PTS||6||21/10/1966||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||7-2-2||Johnny Deutsch||KO||6||03/08/1966||Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Win||6-2-2||Cleo Daniels||PTS||6||06/04/1966||Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, United States|
|Win||5-2-2||Jerry Tomasetti||PTS||6||22/02/1966||Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States|
|Loss||4-2-2||Buster Mathis||TKO||3||17/01/1966||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Loss||4-1-2||Bob Stallings||PTS||6||19/10/1965||Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States|
|Draw||4-0-2||Everett Copeland||PTS||6||23/03/1965||Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States|
|Win||4-0-1||Ray Patterson||SD||6||19/01/1965||Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States|
|Win||3–0–1||Jerry Tomasetti||PTS||4||18/12/1964||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Draw||2–0–1||Everett Copeland||PTS||6||27/10/1964||Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States|
|Win||2–0||Rudy Pavesi||PTS||4||14/08/1964||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||1–0||George Cooper||KO||3||05/08/1964||City Stadium, Bayonne, New Jersey, United States|
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- Sullivan, Joseph F. "Bayonne Cheers a Hometown Product; 'Good Luck, Chuck'", The New York Times, March 22, 1975. Accessed April 18, 2020. "Mr. Wepner said that he was a gangling six‐footer when he was 13 years old and that the added height helped him win a berth on the Bayonne High School basketball team."
- Sullivan, Al (January 27, 2007). "'The Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner, the real life Rocky" Archived October 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
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- Wepner sues over 'Copycat' film. Wepner, the boxer who inspired the character of Rocky Balboa, is preparing for a legal fight over his life story.
- "Thunderlips.wmv". YouTube. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
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