|Real name||Charles Wepner|
|Nickname(s)||The Real "Rocky"
The Bayonne Bleeder
|Height||1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)|
February 26, 1939 |
New York City
|Wins by KO||17|
Charles "Chuck" Wepner (born February 26, 1939) is an American former professional boxer who fought at heavyweight. As a world ranked contender he almost went fifteen rounds with world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 1975 title fight. Wepner also scored notable wins over Randy Neumann and Ernie Terrell.
Charles Wepner was born February 26, 1939 in New York City, New York, the son of Dolores (Hrynko) and Charles William Wepner. He is of German, Ukrainian, and Belorussian descent.
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 Avenue (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 always an avid player of sports in his youth, playing basketball for the Police Athletic League he was very young. With limited options for his future that included working as a longshoreman on the waterfront or joining the military, Wepner opted for the latter, 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.
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 and popular fighter in the Northeast's Club Boxing circuit. But after losing fights to George Foreman (by knockout 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.
However, after losing to Joe Bugner by a knockout 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
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 magazine article, "In Stitches", Ali was guaranteed $1.5 million and Wepner signed for $100,000. This was considerably more than Wepner had ever earned and he therefore did not need any 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. 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, although photos later supported Ali's claim that Wepner had simply tripped him by stepping on his foot. Wepner went to his corner and said to his manager, "Al, start the car. We're going to the bank. We are millionaires." To which 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.
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.
Wepner works today with his second wife Linda in the liquor store management field for Majestic Wines and Spirits in Carlstadt, New Jersey, and is 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.
Sylvester Stallone watched Wepner's fight against Ali and shortly afterwards wrote the script for Rocky, but Stallone subsequently denied that Wepner provided any inspiration for the movie. Wepner filed a lawsuit which was eventually settled with Stallone for an undisclosed amount.
It is speculated that the 1982 film Rocky III was influenced by his fight against Andre the Giant, as the movie features a match versus wrestler Hulk Hogan as "Thunderlips", who throws Rocky out of the ring.
In media and popular culture
- Liev Schreiber is playing the role of Wepner in a sports film, The Bleeder.
- Zach McGowan is playing the role of Wepner is another sports film, "American Brawler".
Professional boxing record
|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||Referee: Jersey Joe Walcott. 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 (10)||20/05/1977||Broome County Arena, Binghamton, New York, United States||Wepner down in the 10th round.|
|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 (10)||02/10/1976||Utica College Sports Complex, Utica, New York, United States||Bout was stopped on cuts.|
|Win||33-10-2||Tommy Sheehan||TKO||2 (10)||06/05/1976||Kearny, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||32-10-2||Johnny Dolan||KO||3 (10)||19/11/1975||Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States|
|Win||31-10-2||Johnny Evans||TKO||4 (10)||19/11/1975||Portland, Maine, United States|
|Loss||30-10-2||Muhammad Ali||TKO||15 (15)||24/03/1975||Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio, United States||For WBC & WBA Heavyweight titles. Ali down in the 9th round after Wepner "knocked him down" by stepping on Ali's foot, Wepner almost went the distance and was TKOed with 19 sec. left in the 15th and final round. This fight was allegedly the inspiration for Rocky.|
|Win||30-9-2||Terry Hinke||TKO||11 (12)||03/09/1974||Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States||Promoter Dick Sadler billed this for the American Heavyweight title. Wepner was penalized 4 points for assorted fouls. Hinke ruled down 3 times in 11th.|
|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 (12)||08/03/1974||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States||Retained USA New Jersey State Heavyweight title. Neumann suffered a severe gash from a clash of heads.|
|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 (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 (8)||06/01/1971||Catholic Youth Center, Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Loss||20-7-2||Joe Bugner||RTD||3 (10)||08/09/1970||Empire Pool, Wembley, London, England, United Kingdom||Cut eye stoppage.|
|Loss||20-6-2||Sonny Liston||RTD||9 (10)||29/06/1970||Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States||Wepner down by body blow in the 5th round. Fight stopped by ring doctor after round 9 because of multiple cuts on Wepner's face.|
|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 (10)||18/08/1969||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States||Wepner's eye opened up slightly in the 1st round, and was bad enough by the beginning of the 3rd to give Foreman a TKO.|
|Loss||18-4-2||Jose 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||Scoring: 5-4-1, 5-5, 6-4.|
|Win||16-3-2||Jerry Tomasetti||TKO||1 (10)||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 (8)||28/09/1968||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States||Ward was down three times in the 7th round, triggering an automatic stoppage.|
|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 (6)||19/07/1967||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States|
|Win||9-2-2||Don McAteer||TKO||5 (6)||28/04/1967||Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States||Won vacant USA New Jersey State heavyweight title. McAteer was a last minute sub.|
|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 (6)||17/01/1966||Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States||Wepner was knocked down in the 1st.|
|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||Patterson was knocked down in the 2nd.|
|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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- "Chuck Wepner" Archived May 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. BoxRec. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
- Gambardello, Joseph A. (November 20, 2003). "'Rocky' meets reality The fighter who inspired the movies has gone to court to win a share of the profits. He said he has gotten nothing." Archived June 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. philly.com.
- Sullivan, Al (January 27, 2007). "'The Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner, the real life Rocky" Archived October 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. The Hudson Reporter.
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- "In Stitches". Time Magazine. 1975-04-07. Retrieved 2007-05-24.
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- [dead link]
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- "35 years after facing Muhammad Ali, 'Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner still pulls no punches | Professional | NewJerseyNewsroom.com - Your State. Your News". NewJerseyNewsroom.com. 2010-03-23. Archived from the original on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
- New Jersey. "Politi: Chuck Wepner, the real 'Rocky,' to have his story told by Hollywood, ESPN documentary". NJ.com. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
- "After 36 years, real-life Rocky's story coming soon". CNN. September 23, 2011.
- "ESPN Films - Chuck Wepner Knocks Down Muhammed Ali". YouTube. 1974-10-30. Archived from the original on 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
- "Chuck Wepner finally recognized for 'Rocky' fame - ESPN". Espn.go.com. 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
- Feuerzeig, Jeff (Director) (2011-10-25). The Real Rocky (Motion picture). ESPN Films.
- "Thunderlips.wmv". YouTube. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
- Fleming Jr, Mike (October 7, 2015). "'Ray Donovan's Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts To Star In Chuck Wepner Underdog Ring Saga 'The Bleeder'". deadline.com. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
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