Chuck Wepner, The Inspiration For ‘Rocky’ Film Series, Gets His Own Statue In NJ Hometown

Chuck Wepner, the ham-and-eggs pro boxer who almost defeated heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and inspired the Sylvester Stallone series Rocky Films, was honored with a statute of his own in his hometown of Bayonne, NJ today.

Wepner was a game but limited fighter in his career. Known as the “Bayonne Bleeder” for his penchant for absorbing numerous blows, Wepner should be a convenient stepping stone when he met Muhammad Ali on March 24, 1975.

The fight was Ali’s first boxing match since retaking the heavyweight title from George Foreman in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” bout in Kinshasa, Zaire in Africa.

The fight with Wepner, which took place at Richfield Coliseum in Ohio, was billed as “Give The White Guy a Break”. No one gave Wepner much of a chance.

But Wepner more than held his own, knocking Ali down in the ring and pounding the champion. The match went into the 15th and final round with the outcome still in doubt, but Ali managed to knock out Wepner and retain the title.

Stallone was among those who watched in awe and used it to fuel his “Rocky” series. To this day, a Rocky statue is a major tourist attraction in Philadelphia, so it’s fitting that the inspiration for the movie character has its own.

Now 83, Wepner was joined by boxing greats Larry Homes, Gerry Cooney and Iran Barkley, along with actor Liev Schreiber, who played Wepner in the film lining.

Wepner spoke about how much the statue means to him.

“The reason I’m here is because of all of you. I’ll never pay Bayonne back,” Wepner said. “I’ll ask the mayor; If I leave, I’ll be cremated – put me next to my statue.”

Appropriately, the unveiling of the two-metre-tall statue was accompanied by the theme Rocky.

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