The Real “Rocky”
Bayonne Boxing Champ Chuck Wepner – the real Rocky Balboa – Star of ESPN Documentary
By Sally Deering
At 72, Chuck Wepner of Bayonne stands 6’5”, weighs 250 lbs, has biceps like ropes of steel, and looks like he can still go a few rounds in the ring – even though it’s been 36 years since his match with Muhammad Ali for the World Heavyweight title.
In 1975, Wepner boxed 15 rounds with Ali and lost with a broken nose, cuts over his eyes and a bruised ego. But what the Bayonne boxer didn’t know was that an unknown named Sylvester Stallone was watching the fight on his TV set and three days later would write “Rocky” based on underdog Wepner. The film became a major hit in 1976 winning three Academy Awards and earning Stallone fame and fortune. Yo! Let’s not forget the sequels, too.
On Tues, Oct 25 at 8 p.m., “The Real Rocky” a documentary about Wepner’s life as a championship boxer and the story behind his bout with Ali airs on ESPN. (It also airs Wed, Oct 26 at 11 p.m. and Sat, Nov. 26 at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2.) And a film based on Wepner’s amazing story is in pre-production and will star Liev Schreiber as Wepner.
The one-hour documentary is directed by Jeff Feuerzeig, an award-winning director whose feature film “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” won top documentary directing honors at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. On ESPN.go.com, Feuerzeig, who grew up in New Jersey, explained his inspiration for making the Wepner documentary.
“ I’ve been a Chuck Wepner fan ever since 1975, when I was 10 years old and my father took my brother and me to Sports Night at the Raritan High School gymnasium in Hazlet to see Chuck, aka ‘The Bayonne Bleeder,’ just months before he was set to go up against Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title,” Feuerzeig told ESPN. “There were no figures who loomed larger in this 10 year-old’s imagination than Evel Knievel, Andre the Giant and, especially, Muhammad Ali – “The Greatest” – and here was a 6-foot-5 behemoth (Wepner) in a full-length fur coat…and ridiculous amount of jewelry leading us in a chant of ‘Who’s gonna beat Ali? WEPNER!’ And in that instant, Chuck Wepner became a real-life mythological figure — as real to me as the Jersey Devil that haunted the local Pine Barrens.” Continue reading Boxing Legend Chuck Wepner “The Real Rocky” interview with Sally Deering of the River View Observer