Chuck Wepner

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Chuck Wepner
Chuck Wepner cropped.jpg
Wepner in 2012
Statistics
Real nameCharles Wepner
Nickname(s)The Bayonne Bleeder
Weight(s)Heavyweight
Height6 ft 5 in (196 cm)[1]
Born (1939-02-26) February 26, 1939 (age 83)
New York City, U.S.
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights51
Wins35
Wins by KO17
Losses14
Draws2

Charles Wepner (born February 26, 1939) is an American former professional boxer.[2][3] He fell just nineteen seconds short of a full fifteen rounds against world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 1975 championship fight. Wepner also scored notable wins over Randy Neumann and former world heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell. He was also the last man to fight former undisputed world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

Wepner's boxing career, and fight with Ali, inspired the 1976 film Rocky, and other life events were chronicled in the 2016 film, Chuck. He was also the subject of the 2019 film The Brawler.

Early life[edit]

Charles Wepner was born on February 26, 1939, in New York City.[4] He is of German, Ukrainian, and Polish descent.[5]

Wepner learned to fight on the streets of Bayonne, New Jersey,[6] 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.[7]

Wepner opted to join 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.[8]

Career[edit]

Wepner turned professional in 1964 and became a popular boxer on the Northeast's Club Boxing circuit, fighting throughout the region, including in arenas close to his boyhood home such as North Bergen and Secaucus.[8] 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.[9] He was the New Jersey state heavyweight boxing champion, but after losing bouts 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 match with Liston, Wepner needed 72 stitches in his face.[10] After his retirement, Wepner stated that Liston was the hardest puncher he ever fought.[11]

However, after losing to Joe Bugner by a cut eye stoppage in three in England, Wepner won nine of his next eleven bouts, including victories over Charlie Polite and former WBA heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell.

Muhammad Ali fight[edit]

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 invested $1.3 million to finance 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 training in the Catskill Mountains under the guidance of Al Braverman (trainer and noted cutman) and Bill Prezant (manager). Prezant prophesied that the match 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.[12] The match was held on March 24 at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio, south of Cleveland. Before the match, 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."[citation needed]

In the ninth round Wepner scored a knockdown, which Ali said occurred because Wepner was stepping on his foot. Published photographs showed Wepner stepping on Ali's foot at the time of the Knockdown. 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."[13]


In the remaining rounds, Ali decisively outboxed Wepner and opened up cuts above both of 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.[14]

After the Ali-Wepner bout, 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".[15] For years after Rocky was released, Stallone denied that Wepner provided inspiration for the movie, though he eventually admitted that it was so.[16][17]

Late career[edit]

In 1976, Wepner fought professional wrestler André the Giant and lost by countout after Andre threw him out of the ring.[18][19]

Wepner's last match was on May 2, 1978, for the New Jersey state heavyweight championship against a new rising prospect, Scott Frank, noted for using a heavy left hook.[20] Wepner lost the match in a 12-round decision, but again proved durable, Ring magazine noted. He announced his retirement afterwards.[21]

Later life[edit]

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.[15]

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.[22][23] He served 17 months in Northern State Prison, Newark, New Jersey, then spent another 20 months in New Jersey's intensive supervision program.[24]

In 2003, Wepner sued Sylvester Stallone, seeking payment for his use as the inspiration for Rocky and the film series. The lawsuit was settled with Stallone in 2006 for an undisclosed amount.[17][25]

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.[26]

A film about Wepner's career was released in 2012,[27] and ESPN aired a documentary titled The Real Rocky on October 25, 2011.[28] The ESPN film features a clip of Wepner's ninth round knockdown of Muhammad Ali in their 1975 world heavyweight title bout.[29][30]

Ring appearances[edit]

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[edit]

Professional boxing record[edit]

35 Wins (17 knockouts), 14 Losses, 2 Draws [40]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 35–14–2 United States Scott Frank PTS 12 September 26, 1978 United States Ice World, Totowa, New Jersey, U.S. Lost USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 35–13–2 United States Tom Healy KO 5 June 2, 1978 United States Old Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 34–13–2 United States Johnny Blaine KO 3 April 7, 1978 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Loss 33–13–2 Canada Horst Geisler TKO 10 May 20, 1977 United States Broome County Arena, Binghamton, New York, U.S.
Loss 33–12–2 South Africa Mike Schutte PTS 10 February 19, 1977 South Africa Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
Loss 33–11–2 United States Duane Bobick TKO 6 October 2, 1976 United States Utica College Sports Complex, Utica, New York, U.S.
Win 33–10–2 United States Tommy Sheehan TKO 2 May 6, 1976 United States Kearny, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 32–10–2 United States Johnny Dolan KO 3 November 29, 1975 United States Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
Win 31–10–2 United States Johnny Evans TKO 4 November 13, 1975 United States Portland, Maine, U.S.
Loss 30–10–2 United States Muhammad Ali TKO 15 March 24, 1975 United States Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio, U.S. For WBA and WBC heavyweight titles
Win 30–9–2 United States Terry Hinke TKO 11 September 3, 1974 United States Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Win 29–9–2 United States Charley Polite KO 4 May 23, 1974 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 28–9–2 United States Randy Neumann TKO 6 March 8, 1974 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Retained USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 27–9–2 United States Billy Williams PTS 10 January 17, 1974 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 26–9–2 United States Ernie Terrell PTS 12 June 23, 1973 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S. Won vacant National Americas heavyweight title
Win 25–9–2 United States Billy Marquart PTS 12 March 15, 1973 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S. Retained USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 24–9–2 United States John Clohessy PTS 10 December 7, 1972 United States Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 23–9–2 United States Randy Neumann PTS 12 April 15, 1972 United States Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S. Won USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Loss 22–9–2 United States Randy Neumann PTS 12 December 9, 1971 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S. Lost USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 22–8–2 United States Mike Boswell TKO 10 October 14, 1971 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 21–8–2 United States Jesse Crown KO 4 September 16, 1971 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Loss 20–8–2 United States Jerry Judge TKO 5 January 6, 1971 United States Catholic Youth Center, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Loss 20–7–2 United Kingdom Joe Bugner TKO 3 September 8, 1970 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
Loss 20–6–2 United States Sonny Liston RTD 9 June 29, 1970 United States Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 20–5–2 Mexico Manuel Ramos UD 10 January 26, 1970 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 19–5–2 Puerto Rico Pedro Agosto PTS 10 December 19, 1969 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
Loss 18–5–2 United States George Foreman TKO 3 August 18, 1969 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Loss 18–4–2 United States José Roman PTS 10 June 22, 1969 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Win 18–3–2 United States Mike Bruce PTS 8 April 28, 1969 United States Secaucus, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 17–3–2 Peru Roberto Davila MD 10 March 14, 1969 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 16–3–2 United States Jerry Tomasetti TKO 1 December 13, 1968 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 15–3–2 United States Mert Brownfield PTS 10 November 9, 1968 United States Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Win 14–3–2 United States Forest Ward TKO 7 September 28, 1968 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 13–3–2 United States Mike Bruce PTS 8 May 20, 1968 United States Plaza Arena, Secaucus, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 12–3–2 United States Eddie Vick SD 10 April 30, 1968 United States Walpole, Massachusetts, U.S.
Win 11–3–2 United States Clay Thomas TKO 3 January 22, 1968 United States Secaucus, New Jersey, U.S.
Win 10–3–2 United States Charlie Harris TKO 6 November 27, 1967 United States Secaucus, New Jersey, U.S.
Loss 9–3–2 United States Jerry Tomasetti TKO 5 July 19, 1967 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 9–2–2 United States Don McAteer TKO 5 April 28, 1967 United States Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S. Won vacant USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 8–2–2 United States Dave Centi PTS 6 October 21, 1966 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 7–2–2 United States Johnny Deutsch KO 6 August 3, 1966 United States Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Win 6–2–2 United States Cleo Daniels PTS 6 April 6, 1966 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, U.S.
Win 5–2–2 United States Jerry Tomasetti PTS 6 February 22, 1966 United States Sunnyside Gardens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Loss 4–2–2 United States Buster Mathis TKO 3 January 17, 1966 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Loss 4–1–2 United States Bob Stallings PTS 6 October 19, 1965 United States Sunnyside Gardens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Draw 4–0–2 United States Everett Copeland PTS 6 March 23, 1965 United States Sunnyside Gardens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 4–0–1 United States Raymond Patterson SD 6 January 19, 1965 United States Sunnyside Gardens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 3–0–1 United States Jerry Tomasetti PTS 4 December 18, 1964 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Draw 2–0–1 United States Everett Copeland PTS 6 October 27, 1964 United States Sunnyside Gardens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 2–0 United States Rudy Pavesi PTS 4 August 14, 1964 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
Win 1–0 United States George Cooper KO 3 August 5, 1964 United States City Stadium, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BoxRec: Chuck Wepner". BoxRec. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  2. ^ "Chuck "The Real Rocky" Wepner's Home Page with Muhammad Ali". Wepner.homestead.com. Archived from the original on August 24, 2013. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  3. ^ "Chuck Wepner: Boxer". Boxrec.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2003. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  4. ^ "Chuck Wepner" Archived May 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, BoxRec.com; retrieved September 27, 2016.
  5. ^ 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; accessed November 21, 2017.
  6. ^ "Chuck who?". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. January 26, 1975. p. 4B.
  7. ^ 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."
  8. ^ a b Sullivan, Al (January 27, 2007). "'The Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner, the real life Rocky" Archived October 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Don't Bleed For Me Bayonne". Thesweetscience.com. November 6, 2004. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  10. ^ "Real Rocky Wepner finally getting due". ESPN. October 25, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  11. ^ "FIGHTLAND". www.vice.com.
  12. ^ "In Stitches". Time. April 7, 1975. Archived from the original on March 31, 2021.
  13. ^ "Real-Life "Rocky" Boxer Chuck Wepner Talks w/ Jim Clash". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". news.google.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ a b Alexander, Bryan (May 2, 2017). "2 4 'Chuck': Five things you should know about the real 'Rocky' Chuck Wepner". USA Today. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Chuck Wepner finally recognized for 'Rocky' fame". Espn.go.com. October 25, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  17. ^ a b Feuerzeig, Jeff (Director) (October 25, 2011). The Real Rocky (Motion picture). ESPN Films.
  18. ^ "Andre The Giant | Chuck Wepner (ex) 1/1". YouTube. April 21, 2009. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  19. ^ "Andre the Giant vs. Chuck Wepner". YouTube. August 26, 2006. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  20. ^ "Scott Frank". Njboxinghof.org. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  21. ^ "Interview with Chuck Wepner: Blood, Sweat & Tears! – Boxing News". Doghouseboxing.com. March 10, 2011. Archived from the original on November 14, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  22. ^ "Boxing Wepner, Once Fought Ali, Gets 10 Years For Drugs". Sun Sentinel. March 16, 1988.
  23. ^ "Wepner Sentenced". The New York Times. March 16, 1988.
  24. ^ Katz, Michael (June 7, 1991). "Bayonne & Back for Ali, Wepner". Daily News. Retrieved August 11, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ "'Bayonne Bleeder' settles Rocky suit vs. Stallone". ESPN.com. August 8, 2006. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  26. ^ "35 years after facing Muhammad Ali, 'Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner still pulls no punches | Professional | NewJerseyNewsroom.com – Your State. Your News". NewJerseyNewsroom.com. March 23, 2010. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  27. ^ New Jersey (September 4, 2011). "Politi: Chuck Wepner, the real 'Rocky,' to have his story told by Hollywood, ESPN documentary". NJ.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  28. ^ "After 36 years, real-life Rocky's story coming soon". CNN. September 23, 2011.
  29. ^ "ESPN Films – Chuck Wepner Knocks Down Muhammed Ali". YouTube. October 30, 1974. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Thunderlips.wmv". YouTube. July 2, 2010. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  32. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (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.
  33. ^ "The Brawler (2018)". www.imdb.com. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  34. ^ https://hudsonreporter.com/2022/11/03/bayonne-to-unveil-chuck-wepner-statue-in-collins-park/
  35. ^ "Plans revealed for life-size statue honoring Bayonne Bleeder Chuck Wepner". April 13, 2015.
  36. ^ "Rendering of Chuck Wepner statue unveiled at Bayonne PAL dinner". April 12, 2015.
  37. ^ "'Real Rocky' Chuck Wepner honored with bronze statue -- and artist is doing it for free". August 23, 2018.
  38. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (April 6, 2019). "'Rocky' Has a Statue in Philadelphia. Now the 'Real Rocky' Will Get One in Jersey". The New York Times.
  39. ^ Israel, Daniel; Writer, Staff (April 22, 2022). "Enough money raised to bring Chuck Wepner statue to Bayonne".
  40. ^ "Chuck Wepner : Boxer". Boxrec.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.

External links[edit]