Ring of Famer
Join Date: Dec 2002
Originally Posted by B-Love
Chuck Wepner "The Bayonne Bleeder"
Outstanding. Here's an entertaining interview with Chuck.
Chuck Wepner: The Bayonne Bleeder
By Dave Hollander
A TRUE CREDIT TO the fight game who deserves the the credit for Rocky tells why Sylvester Stallone owes him, who really killed Sonny Liston and how Muhammad Ali really spends all his money.
NYSX: Hey Chuck, thanks for letting me use the bathroom.
CHUCK: No problem. You didn't touch Linda's perfumes in there did you?
CHUCK: We caught the interviewer from Sports Illustrated using her perfumes.
NYSX: I guess that's why I don't write for them.
CHUCK: Yeah, he was using the expensive stuff.
LINDA: Actually he was using the Bengay. (They laugh.)
NYSX: Oh man.
NYSX: Some questions for you, Chuck. Everybody knows—or should know—that your heroic 15 round fight against Muhammad Ali in 1975 inspired Sylvester Stallone to make Rocky. He's always said that. Why won't he pay you?
CHUCK: What we're suing him for is for using my name "Chuck Wepner" to promote the Rocky franchise for the last 28 years. I have eight or nine videos of Stallone on national television—a couple of times with me—saying I was an inspiration, saying I turned his life around. The Rocky franchise to date has made one billion, three hundred million dollars with videos, toys, games, magazine and everything. He made me promises through the years and I just let it go. I'm in his videos. I'm in his DVDs. I'm in his games. So he is using my names constantly to make money and promote the movie. It's called the right of publicity law. They can't use your name without your written permission.
NYSX: Billons and millions. Why won't he let you wet your beak a little?
CHUCK: I just think he thinks that it's not a big deal, and I don't really care. And I really didn't until I got married to my third wife Linda. (loving gaze toward Linda.) And she said "Jeezuz, did you ever get any money?" I told people I have received 70,000 dollars, and a one percent because I was actually embarrassed about the fact that I never got a dime. And he never offered me a dime. But he did offer me parts in movies, which never came about.
NYSX: Yeah, you were supposed to be in Rocky II. What happened?
CHUCK: In Rocky II he wrote in 32 lines for a character called "Ching Webber." Chuck Wepner—Ching Webber. I was going to be Rocky's sparring partner and friend. But 19 days before final casting they called me up—he never even called me himself—the co-producers called me and said they deiced to cut out the part. I never claimed to be a great actor, but it would've been nice—small bit parts. I hold a SAG card. I've been in two movies. I've held a SAG card for 25 years. He never offered me anything. And it began to gnaw at me.
NYSX: I read recently that Russell Crowe will be playing the part of Gentleman Jim Braddock in a biopic. Has your lawyer looked into any legal precedent like did Scorsese pay La Motta for Raging Bull, did Rocky Marciano get anything for Somebody Up There Likes Me or did anyone pay Ruben "Hurricane" Carter for Hurricane?
CHUCK: We don't care about that—if anyone got paid. It's not like I want to be in a movie. I've had two speaking parts in movies by the way. I did all right, but I'm not a movie actor. If they were going to make a movie about me I'd prefer someone like James Gandolfini, or Danny Aiello for later in my life.
NYSX: Would you fight Stallone for the 15 million he owes you?
CHUCK: That'd be ridiculous. He doesn't know how to fight. This isn't the movies. I had 147 fights—never been knocked out. I was down one time ever—with Ali in 15 rounds. I fought for 21 years: All-Marine champion, National Golden Gloves Champion, National AAU, New Jersey Champion, North America and National America Champion. C'mon! I'm not suing him over anything like that. I don't want to cause any trouble for the guy. I just feel he owes me money.
NYSX: I think your real life story is much more interesting that the fictional Rocky. You were not some hard-luck dimwit. You lived the life! You sported the flashy clothes, the beautiful and exciting women, Playboy bunnies, models—
CHUCK: —My car's out in the back. It's a 2004 Cadillac. The plates say "Champ" with boxing gloves. I've had the plates for 27 years. This is my third wife. I've always been with beautiful women. I've always lived the good life. And as far as Rocky collecting on the docks? That was me. I told him that. C'mon, Stallone collecting? Where do think he got the idea. The guy who Rocky was collecting for was my guy John DiGulio, who was head of the docks at the time. They put two in his head and dumped in the Hackensack River. This is all stuff I gave Stallone. The line "Even if I don't win the fight I want to prove I belong in the ring." That was my line I gave to Stallone. Rocky fighting Hulk Hogan? That was me fighting Andre the Giant. I mean the guy took my whole life. I fought Andre the Giant in Shea Stadium the night Ali fought Anoki in Japan. They wanted Andre the Giant to body-slam me. I said "That fat **** is 515 pounds! Are you out of your mind?" So I let him throw me out of the ring onto some people. That didn't hurt. Then Ali was supposed to come back to fight Andre and I was supposed to go to Japan and fight Anoki. I fought Anoki. But Ali and Andre never fought. Because Ali wanted to win and Andre was the "undefeated wrestling champ." It's show biz. I mean I went over there, Anoki got me in the boston crab in the fifth round and I hit the mat and made all the right noises. He asked me if I "give" and the third time I said "Okay, I give." That was it. You gotta see the pictures.
NYSX: You went 15 rounds with Ali in 1975, but you also knocked him down in the 9th round, not many can say that.
CHUCK: Well, I'm the only guy to have him down as world champion. He was down by Frazier and Cooper as a contender, I'm the only guy who dropped him as champion of the world. Matter fact I went back to the corner, I said to my manager, "Start the car we're going to the bank. We're millionaires!" He said, "You better turn around. He's getting' up and he looks pissed off." I said, "Oh ****." And he was too. Ali's manager was saying—(to Linda) who was his manager?
LINDA: What was his name?
NYSX: Angelo Dundee.
CHUCK: Angelo Dundee! (to Linda) Do me favor, go back in the kitchen. You're fired.
LINDA: How can I remember all this stuff. You don't even remember half the stuff!
NYSX: But Linda wasn't your wife then. Who did you give that negligee to the night before the Ali fight?
CHUCK: Oh, that was my second wife. I bought her a powder blue negligee and I gave it to her the night before the Ali fight. I said to her "Phyllis, I want you to wear this to bed tonight, because tonight you're gonna be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world." So I came back to hotel after the fight, and she's sitting on edge of the bed in the negligee, and she says "Do I go to his room or does he come to mine?" She had a pretty dry wit. In the meantime two of my girlfriends were at the fight sitting right beside my wife.
LINDA: (unimpressed) Yeah, they were.
NYSX: Every boxer has a nickname. Ernie Shavers was "the Acorn." You were the "Bayonne Bleeder." Did you like your nickname?
CHUCK: Not particularly, but you know what? It was voted third in the ten best boxing names of all time.
NYSX: Now that the PATH train runs to Bayonne, my friend and map fetishist Rob Tallia says Bayonne will become the next hipster paradise—
CHUCK: Oh, that's horse****. This town? This town is so dead. I love this town, I lived here all my life. We got a good police force. Our politicians are good. Everything is good except it's not lively anymore. You can't have a lively jumping town and the quiet one too. We have almost thirty percent seniors in this town. They can walk the streets and feel safe. There are some tough towns nearby—Jersey City, West New York. It's not like Bayonne.
NYSX: You had some tough times yourself, going to prison for drug possession in 1986.
CHUCK: A guy called me up and says a friend of ours—is having a party. He needs some stuff—cocaine. So I say "Why don't you get it?" "Oh," he says, "I don't know the guy. I'll give you the money, you pick it up for me." I picked it up, I'm bringing it to him and the cops bust me. It was a sting operation. They ask, "Where'd you get it?" "Who did you buy if off of." I said, "Look, I don't do that. I did the crime, I'll do the time." They say, "We don't want to put you away. We want the people you got the stuff from." I said, "I can't do that." So they gave me 10 years. I did 38 months altogether inside and in the program. It's not fun, but if you're a tough guy nobody bothers you. If you're not a tough guy you're somebody's wife. That ain't gonna happen to me. I might be the husband, but I ain't gonna be the wife.
NYSX: Your fight with Sonny Liston in 1969 is famous for its brutality. I'm guessing that's where the name "Bayonne Bleeder" came from.
CHUCK: For five or six rounds I was in the fight. It was only my twelfth pro fight. I thought I take a shortcut to fame. I took a lot of shortcuts, by the way. Every time he hit with a punch the blood was spraying. Rosie Rosenberg from The Bayonne Times was ringside. He said Jesus, the guy's bleeding so much, they ought to call him the "Bayonne Bleeder." The name stuck. After the 6th rounds both my eyes were closed. I took 72 stitches. He broke my nose and my left cheek bone and my right ear drum. I mean the guy really pounded me.
CHUCK: Liston was very tough. It was the fight after he lost to Ali the second time, for the title. So he was in very bad mood. He was a mean guy anyway. I think I was the last guy to fight him. Three months after he fought me they shot him up with heroin in Las Vegas and killed him—knocked him off.
NYSX: Who knocked him off?
CHUCK: The mob. He was a leg breaker and collector for the mob, and he was skimming. You don't do that. The guy was definitely afraid of needles. He wouldn't take a needle and yet he shot himself up and overdosed? C'mon. It's like the JFK assassination. Everybody knows what really happened. They're still blaming it on some poor schmuck with a rifle.
NYSX: Vito Antuofermo has the record for stitches with 345. You're second with 326. Who keeps track of this?
CHUCK: They told me I had 326 in my eyes and they told me Vito had 345. I wanted to be number one. But my manager wouldn't let me fight again. I saw Vito last week at the Arturo Gatti fight. Matter of fact he was looking for a ride home. I said, "Vito you don't have a car?" He said, "Well I came down with friends and I lost them." I said, "Do you have a ticket to the fight?" He said, "Yeah I got a ticket. But I don't have ride home." So I put him in touch with a couple guys who go up where he lives. I hope he got a ride.
NYSX: We mentioned you knocked down Ali but you also knocked down George Foreman in the second round of a fight where he stopped you later in the fight round.
CHUCK: Yeah, they didn't call it a knockdown. I hit him with an overhand right in corner here (he points to the back of his head). It was a good punch. I hit him in the back of head, which is one of my patented punches by the way—the rabbit punch. I used to eat a stalk of carrots before every punch. Boy, I had that punch down pat. I really got blamed for that after the Ali fight because Ali was in the rope-a-dope like this (demonstrates on his face) and the only place you can hit Ali is to throw a round house and hit him here (demonstrates on my head). And sometimes when he ducked you hit him here (on my head again). Sometimes I did hit there—not on purpose. (Grinning). But we studied films on Ali. We saw what happened to Foreman in Zaire. Forman hit Ali for seven rounds, exhausted himself and got knocked out in the 8th round. I was planning on a long fight. I knew Ali had never been knocked out. I thought if possible I could wear him down, take him into the late rounds then knock him out. The first five or six rounds all he did was dance around yet they gave him three out the first 5 rounds. He's Muhammad Ali. You gotta knock him out. He was a great fighter. What people forget is no one ever knocked out Muhammad Ali. He was stopped by Larry Holmes in the sixth round. He'd only been down three times in all those fights. Nobody ever knocked him out. That's unfortunately why he is like he is today. He took a lot of punishment.
NYSX: Do you see Ali at all these days?
CHUCK: Yeah, I was with him not long ago. It's tough. He told me that wiping his ass is a problem. I said, "Muhammad, with all your money you should pay someone to do that." He said, "Where do think all my money goes?"
NYSX: How's your liquor distribution business?
CHUCK: It's very good.
NYSX: What's moving these days?
CHUCK: Vodka. It's huge.