Thanks to former (Atlantic City, New Jersey) Claridge Hotel and Casino Vice President Glenn Lillie, I had an amazing visit with Chuck Wepner, nearly 30 years ago.

Wepner was a humble, kind and decent gentleman. He is now 84 years old. I met him when he was in his late 50’s.

Chuck Wepner is known as “The Bayonne Bleeder.”

It is beyond dispute. Without Chuck Wepner … there would be no Rocky Balboa.

Sylvester Stallone attended a Wepner fight and was directly inspired to write the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning movie, Rocky.

The Rocky franchise has achieved rare, epic, legendary status.

I really like every one of them, except the Rocky V, Tommy “The Duke” Morrison movie.

Before there was a Rocky Balboa, there was Chuck Wepner, who was most famous for lasting 15 rounds with The Greatest of All-Time, Muhammid Ali on March 24, 1975.

Wepner earned $150,000 for the fight, plus an additional $25,000 for training expenses. It was the biggest payday of Wepner's career.

By comparison, Ali made $1.5 million for the Wepner fight.

Wepner is officially credited with knocking down Ali in this fight, however, it appears that Wepner inadvertently stepped on Ali's foot, which caused the "knockdown."

Wepner gave me his business card (see below), which features Ali on the canvas after the infamous, phantom knockdown:

Harry Hurley photo.
Harry Hurley photo.

Wepner and I spoke at length about his epic 15-round fight with Ali and the fact that he was literally Stallone's inspiration for Rocky Balboa.

In case you thought Wepner harbored any hard feelings towards Stallone about the Rocky Balboa character, guess again.

After a bit of acrimony, Stallone and Wepner worked it all out.

Wepner and Stallone became good friends after Rocky I. As a result, Stallone cast Wepner as a sparring partner in Rocky II.

Because Stallone attended a Wepner fight and was completely taken by Wepner’s incredible heart and willingness to take a beating inside the boxing ring, Rocky Balboa was born.

This directly resulted in "Rocky" and eight sequels:

  • Rocky I| (1979)
  • Rocky III (1982)
  • Rocky IV (1985)
  • Rocky V (1990)
  • Rocky Balboa (2006)
  • Creed (2015)
  • Creed II (2018)
  • Creed III (2023)

NOTE: With the passing of Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed) on Thursday, February 1, 2024, it inspired me to write about “Rocky” and the Chuck Wepner connection.

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Gallery Credit: Harry Hurley

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Gallery Credit: Harry Hurley


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