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Chuck Wepner (born February 26, 1939) is a former heavyweight boxer from Bayonne, New Jerseymarker. As an obscure boxer he went 15 rounds with world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 1975 fight. Wepner has often been credited as the inspiration for Rocky Balboa.


Early career

Wepner, nicknamed "The Bayonne Bleeder," debuted as a professional boxer in 1964 and 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 security guard 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 over 120 sutures in his face. He also lost a fight to Jose King Roman by a decision in Puerto Rico.

However, after losing to Joe Bugner by a knockout in three in Englandmarker, Wepner won nine of his next eleven fights, including victories over Charlie Polite and former WBA Heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell.

Muhammad Ali fight

Then, in 1975, it was announced Wepner would challenge Muhammad Ali for the world's Heavyweight title. 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 (manager) and Bill Prezant (trainer and noted cutman). Prezant prophesied that the fight would be a big surprise. This bout was the first time he had been able to train full time. The fight was held on March 24 at the Richfield Coliseummarker, near Clevelandmarker. Before the fight, a reporter asked Wepner if he thought he could survive in the ring with the champion, to which Wepner allegedly answered

The bout was promoted again by Don King who promised Ali the astonishing sum of $1.5 million. King was now firmly associated with Ali and a player on the heavyweight scene.

In the ninth round, Wepner landed a punch to Ali's chest and Ali was knocked down. Wepner went to his corner and said to his manager, "Hey, I knocked him down." "Yeah," Wepner's manager replied, "but he looks really pissed off now..."

In the remaining rounds, Ali opened up cuts above both Wepner's eyes and broke his nose. However, the far-behind-in-points Wepner made a dramatic comeback but lost in the final minutes.

Young actor Sylvester Stallone watched the fight at home on television and was inspired to write the script for Rocky, based on Wepner's gutsy challenge. In 1976, Wepner fought professional wrestler André the Giant and lost by countout[24762].

Career totals

Wepner had a record of 35 wins (17 of which were knockouts), 14 losses, and 2 draws.

Wepner was indicted in the FBI's sting, "Operation Bullpen", which nabbed millions of dollars worth of forged sports memorabilia. Wepner conspired with a friend to forge thousands of Muhammad Ali signatures which were distributed and sold all over the country. Wepner pleaded guilty to one charge of mail fraud, and received a plea deal which included probation, fines, and one day in jail.

In popular culture

Wepner was the inspiration for the character Rocky Balboa in the film Rocky.

See also


  1. Chuck "The Real Rocky" Wepner's Official Web Site
  2. Chuck Wepner's page
  3. Don’t Bleed For Me Bayonne | Boxing
  4. thebiofile.::. scoop malinowski - Biofile with "The Real Life Rocky" Chuck Wepner!
  5. "Rocky Balboa"|Salon Arts & Entertainment

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