Chuck Wepner

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Chuck Wepner
WepnerRossman.JPG
Wepner (left) and former light heavyweight champion Mike Rossman in 2012
Statistics
Real nameCharles Wepner
Nickname(s)The Bayonne Bleeder
Weight(s)Heavyweight
Height6 ft 5 in (196 cm)[1]
NationalityAmerican
Born (1939-02-26) February 26, 1939 (age 82)
New York City, New York, 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 who fought as a heavyweight.[2][3] 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.

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, 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.[6]

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.[7]

Career[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] Wepner said after his career was over that Liston was the hardest puncher he ever fought.[10]

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[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 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.[11] 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."[citation needed]

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."[12]

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.[13]

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".[14] For years after Rocky was released, Stallone denied that Wepner provided inspiration for the movie.[15][16]

Late career[edit]

In 1976, Wepner fought professional wrestler André the Giant and lost by countout after Andre threw him out of the ring.[17][18]

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.[19] Wepner lost the fight in a 12-round decision, but again proved durable, Ring magazine noted. He announced his retirement after the fight.[20]

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.[14]

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.[21][22] He served 17 months in Northern State Prison, Newark, New Jersey, then spent another 20 months in New Jersey's intensive supervision program.[23]

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.[16][24]

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.[25]

A film about Wepner's career was released in 2012,[26] and ESPN aired a documentary titled The Real Rocky on October 25, 2011.[27] The ESPN film features a clip of Wepner's ninth round knockdown of Muhammad Ali in their 1975 world heavyweight title bout.[28][29]

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 [33]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 35-14-2 United States Scott Frank PTS 12 26/09/1978 United States Ice World, Totowa, New Jersey, United States Lost USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 35-13-2 United States Tom Healy KO 5 02/06/1978 United States Old Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
Win 34-13-2 United States Johnny Blaine KO 3 07/04/1978 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Loss 33-13-2 Canada Horst Geisler TKO 10 20/05/1977 United States Broome County Arena, Binghamton, New York, United States
Loss 33-12-2 South Africa Mike Schutte PTS 10 19/02/1977 South Africa Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Loss 33-11-2 United States Duane Bobick TKO 6 02/10/1976 United States Utica College Sports Complex, Utica, New York, United States
Win 33-10-2 United States Tommy Sheehan TKO 2 06/05/1976 United States Kearny, New Jersey, United States
Win 32-10-2 United States Johnny Dolan KO 3 29/11/1975 United States Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
Win 31-10-2 United States Johnny Evans TKO 4 13/11/1975 United States Portland, Maine, United States
Loss 30-10-2 United States Muhammad Ali TKO 15 24/03/1975 United States Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio, United States For WBA and WBC heavyweight titles
Win 30-9-2 United States Terry Hinke TKO 11 03/09/1974 United States Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Win 29-9-2 United States Charley Polite KO 4 23/05/1974 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Win 28-9-2 United States Randy Neumann TKO 6 08/03/1974 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States Retained USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 27-9-2 United States Billy Williams PTS 10 17/01/1974 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Win 26-9-2 United States Ernie Terrell PTS 12 23/06/1973 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States Won vacant National Americas heavyweight title
Win 25-9-2 United States Billy Marquart PTS 12 15/03/1973 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States Retained USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 24-9-2 United States John Clohessy PTS 10 07/12/1972 United States Bayonne, New Jersey, United States
Win 23-9-2 United States Randy Neumann PTS 12 15/04/1972 United States Jersey City, New Jersey, United States Won USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Loss 22-9-2 United States Randy Neumann PTS 12 09/12/1971 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States Lost USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 22-8-2 United States Mike Boswell TKO 10 14/10/1971 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Win 21-8-2 United States Jesse Crown KO 4 16/09/1971 United States Embassy Hall, North Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Loss 20-8-2 United States Jerry Judge TKO 5 06/01/1971 United States Catholic Youth Center, Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States
Loss 20-7-2 United Kingdom Joe Bugner TKO 3 08/09/1970 United Kingdom Empire Pool, Wembley, London, England, United Kingdom
Loss 20-6-2 United States Sonny Liston RTD 9 29/06/1970 United States Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
Win 20-5-2 Mexico Manuel Ramos UD 10 26/01/1970 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 19-5-2 Puerto Rico Pedro Agosto PTS 10 19/12/1969 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Loss 18-5-2 United States George Foreman TKO 3 18/08/1969 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Loss 18-4-2 United States José Roman PTS 10 22/06/1969 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Win 18-3-2 United States Mike Bruce PTS 8 28/04/1969 United States Secaucus, New Jersey, United States
Win 17-3-2 Peru Roberto Davila MD 10 14/03/1969 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Win 16-3-2 United States Jerry Tomasetti TKO 1 13/12/1968 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Win 15-3-2 United States Mert Brownfield PTS 10 09/11/1968 United States Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States
Win 14-3-2 United States Forest Ward TKO 7 28/09/1968 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 13-3-2 United States Mike Bruce PTS 8 20/05/1968 United States Plaza Arena, Secaucus, New Jersey, United States
Win 12-3-2 United States Eddie Vick SD 10 30/04/1968 United States Walpole, Massachusetts, United States
Win 11-3-2 United States Clay Thomas TKO 3 22/01/1968 United States Secaucus, New Jersey, United States
Win 10-3-2 United States Charlie Harris TKO 6 27/11/1967 United States Secaucus, New Jersey, United States
Loss 9-3-2 United States Jerry Tomasetti TKO 5 19/07/1967 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 9-2-2 United States Don McAteer TKO 5 28/04/1967 United States Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States Won vacant USA New Jersey State heavyweight title
Win 8-2-2 United States Dave Centi PTS 6 21/10/1966 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 7-2-2 United States Johnny Deutsch KO 6 03/08/1966 United States Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States
Win 6-2-2 United States Cleo Daniels PTS 6 06/04/1966 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, United States
Win 5-2-2 United States Jerry Tomasetti PTS 6 22/02/1966 United States Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States
Loss 4-2-2 United States Buster Mathis TKO 3 17/01/1966 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Loss 4-1-2 United States Bob Stallings PTS 6 19/10/1965 United States Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States
Draw 4-0-2 United States Everett Copeland PTS 6 23/03/1965 United States Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States
Win 4-0-1 United States Ray Patterson SD 6 19/01/1965 United States Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States
Win 3–0–1 United States Jerry Tomasetti PTS 4 18/12/1964 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Draw 2–0–1 United States Everett Copeland PTS 6 27/10/1964 United States Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States
Win 2–0 United States Rudy Pavesi PTS 4 14/08/1964 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 1–0 United States George Cooper KO 3 05/08/1964 United States City Stadium, Bayonne, New Jersey, United States

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 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  3. ^ "Chuck Wepner: Boxer". Boxrec.com. Archived from the original on 2003-02-01. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  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. ^ 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."
  7. ^ a b Sullivan, Al (January 27, 2007). "'The Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner, the real life Rocky" Archived October 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Don't Bleed For Me Bayonne". Thesweetscience.com. 2004-11-06. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  9. ^ "Real Rocky Wepner finally getting due". ESPN. 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
  10. ^ http://fightland.vice.com/blog/requiem-for-a-heavyweight-the-mysterious-death-of-sonny-liston
  11. ^ "In Stitches". Time. 1975-04-07. Archived from the original on March 31, 2021.
  12. ^ "Real-Life "Rocky" Boxer Chuck Wepner Talks w/ Jim Clash". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ a b Alexander, Bryan (May 2, 2017). "2 4 'Chuck': Five things you should know about the real 'Rocky' Chuck Wepner". USA Today. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  15. ^ a b "Chuck Wepner finally recognized for 'Rocky' fame". Espn.go.com. 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  16. ^ a b Feuerzeig, Jeff (Director) (2011-10-25). The Real Rocky (Motion picture). ESPN Films.
  17. ^ "Andre The Giant | Chuck Wepner (ex) 1/1". YouTube. 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  18. ^ "Andre the Giant vs. Chuck Wepner". YouTube. 2006-08-26. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  19. ^ "Scott Frank". Njboxinghof.org. Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  20. ^ "Interview with Chuck Wepner: Blood, Sweat & Tears! – Boxing News". Doghouseboxing.com. 2011-03-10. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  21. ^ "Boxing Wepner, Once Fought Ali, Gets 10 Years For Drugs". Sun Sentinel. March 16, 1988.
  22. ^ "Wepner Sentenced". The New York Times. 16 March 1988.
  23. ^ Katz, Michael (1991-06-07). "Bayonne & Back for Ali, Wepner". Daily News. Retrieved 2019-08-11 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ "'Bayonne Bleeder' settles Rocky suit vs. Stallone". ESPN.com. 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  25. ^ "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.
  26. ^ New Jersey. "Politi: Chuck Wepner, the real 'Rocky,' to have his story told by Hollywood, ESPN documentary". NJ.com. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  27. ^ "After 36 years, real-life Rocky's story coming soon". CNN. September 23, 2011.
  28. ^ "ESPN Films - Chuck Wepner Knocks Down Muhammed Ali". YouTube. 1974-10-30. Archived from the original on 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ "Thunderlips.wmv". YouTube. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ "The Brawler (2018)". www.imdb.com. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  33. ^ "Chuck Wepner : Boxer". Boxrec.com. Retrieved 2012-11-20.

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