Chuck Wepner may never have been a great fighter, but as the 80 year old cheerfully acknowledges today, he’s sure been blessed with a great life. This is not to say Wepner’s life has been all sunshine and rainbows, far from it. Wepner, most famous for being the real life inspiration for the eternally popular ‘Rocky Balboa’ character, has had some major downs to go with his ups. Wepner has served time in prison, he has battled drug and alcohol addiction and, last year, he underwent treatment to fight cancer.
Through it all, the man who is also famous for having fought the incomparable Muhammad Ali, even managing a knockdown over “The Greatest” before being stopped with mere seconds remaining the in the 15th and final round in 1975, has remained upbeat. Now, as per a story by The New York Times, Wepner has the ultimate reason to smile; to feel proud. Wepner will have a statue erected in his honor later this year, in his home town of Bayonne in New Jersey.
As fans know, the fictitious ‘Rocky’ got a statue, in Philadelphia, at the bottom of the steps the boxing hero ran up in training. Wepner will have his statue placed at the bottom of the steps he himself ran up in real-life training – he says giving Sylvester Stallone the idea to have Balboa run up the flights of steps in the movies – in Hudson County Park.
Wepner has had quite the tribute paid to him with the statue, and he has also had the sliver screen treatment; twice. There is the film ‘The Bleeder,’ and last year another film based on Wepner’s life came out, with ‘The Brawler’ being released. Some fans say Wepner is not worthy of such lofty treatment, that he was never ‘that good a fighter.’ But Wepner showed genuine heart and spirit in the ring, and he gave hope to the underdog in all walks of life.
Chuck’s still punching, some 41 years since his final ring appearance. Wepner, 36-14-2(17) fought a number of greats, including: Ali, George Foreman, Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell.