"The Vanilla Godzilla" was raised in Ventura County, California. He is a USN veteran, divorced with grandkids, living in Phoenix since 2000.
The Inspiration for Rocky
Rocky Balboa and Chuck Wepner: One is a movie character, the other is a real person, but both inspired people to reach their capabilities and then just a bit further.
Who was Chuck Wepner?
Chuck was born in New York City and was the New Jersey State heavyweight boxing champion. Between bouts, he'd make ends meet as a bouncer and security guard, and occasionally had to break a kneecap collecting money from the clients of loan sharks. He fought palookas (marginally talented boxers) in small arenas for even smaller paychecks.
At that point in his life in 1974, you'd have to ask yourself how could this guy be the inspiration for Rocky Balboa?
Actually, Chuck had a fairly successful professional boxing career in spite of his nickname ("The Bayonne Bleeder"). He had a final record of 51 wins, 35 losses, and two draws. At this point in his career, he was getting the reputation as a bit of a tomato can—you know, the kind you kicked around as you walked home from school. He needed over 120 stitches in his face after one fight.
Then the biggest break that every boxer ever dreams of just fell right into his lap! You think this was just a promotion? Chuck had all intentions to win and become the underdog champion. Watch the clip below from the Mike Douglas Show before the fight as Chuck and Muhammad Ali square off!
Average Joe vs. The Champ
Flamboyant promoter Don King thought it would be a great idea to give an "average Joe" a shot at the seemingly superhuman Muhammad Ali in 1975. They randomly chose Chuck. Ali would receive $1.5 million. Chuck would receive $100,000, but it was more than he had ever received for a payday. Besides, his boxing career was seemingly winding down fast and this was a once-in-a-lifetime shot for the champ's title.
Do you notice the similarities in Ali's demeanor and those of the character in the movie, Apollo Creed? Boisterous, loud, overconfident, and always a showman. But Rocky is humble, realistic, and devoted to his calling. He is characterized as being just a name found on the undercard of a boxing event, much like Chuck's unheralded boxing career up to that point.
They fought in Richfield, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. It was a pretty bloody bout to say the least, according to eyewitnesses at ringside. It was the challenger, Wepner, who was the bloody one. The champ bragged that he'd finish off the bum in three rounds.
Before the fight, Chuck had told his wife Linda, "Tonight you're going to be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world." Chuck would just not give in to the champion's punishing assault throughout the entire fight. In round nine, Ali went down, one of the few times in his career and only one of four times in his entire career.
How did Chuck Wepner do it?
The challenger had used an old boxer's cheating tactic called "rabbit punches," sneaking in blows to the back of his opponent's head. He also used a ploy of stepping on the opponent's foot and then lifting up just as he pulled back, forcing momentum backwards and off balance, then popping him one in the face.
"You see that? I knocked him down," Chuck said, sitting on his stool after the round.
"Yeah, but I think that really pissed him off now," his worried trainer, Al Braverman, responded.
The fight miraculously continued on into the 15th round as Ali made hamburger meat out of Chuck's face. Finally, after sustaining two knockdowns and seemingly near exhaustion, the champion had barely retained his title by a technical knockout decision.
“He's better than you all gave him credit for,” Ali told a crowded post-fight interview room. “I'm unmarked and I won,” Ali said.
“That's what you think,” shouted a woman in the back of the room.
“That's O.K.,” said Ali. “That's his wife. I know how she feels.”
When Chuck returned home that night, his wife Linda tried to cheer him up by asking him, "So where's Muhammad Ali? You said I was going to be sleeping with the champ tonight!" His face hurt so bad but he managed to crack a smile and they both laughed until they cried.
But our hero had garnered the respect of Ali and the entire nation. He also caught the attention of a struggling actor and scriptwriter who was watching the fight on his small black-and-white TV in a poor section of Philadelphia.
Everyone knows who that actor is by now. He went on to star in and write the Academy Award-winning Best Picture movie based on the events that surrounded this fight, and his name is Sylvester Stallone.
Wepner filed a lawsuit which was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount out of court. He retired the next year in 1976. These days, Chuck and his wife are still living in New Jersey and working in liquor sales to local stores.
He's [Chuck Wepner is] better than you all gave him credit for.
— Muhammad Ali
Conversations With Chuck Wepner
I wrote to Mr. Wepner and asked for an autographed picture, but I received more than just that. A personal correspondence began back and forth via the internet.
The autographed picture shows Chuck flopping onto the ropes with his gloves up and still ready to fight from the 15th round of the now-famous fight. His face is a bloody, swollen, unrecognizable mess. Ali had just finished belting him with a right hook and he seemed exhausted and irritated that he was still standing after taking such a beating.
Yeah, Rocky is a real person. His name is Chuck.
The Final, Bloody Round
Did You Know That Rocky Was Based on a Real Person and His Experiences?
Dan W Miller (author) from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000 on August 27, 2018:
I'm always surprised when people never realized that Sylvester Stallone wrote "Rocky" based on inspiration from a real person and a real event. The character is not unlike Chuck. It's obvious the champion Creed has similar characteristics of Ali. But the whole premise is only the stuff movies are made of. Yet that's what actually happened!
Dan W Miller (author) from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000 on January 24, 2018:
In answer to idiot trolling ANONYMOUS non-writer guy:
If you put quotations on a real person, THEY SAID IT. You are really lousy at retaining what you read, you know that? Everyone else GOT that yes, he's a real person.
Just like when YER MUTHER was in porn movies starring with you and said something like. "My son is my best lover" it's a real quote.
Obviously no one could be this stupid and you didn't read it so you must be another one of my jealous haters. Some I actually know. You, I know. Not many of you and one has to be outspoken and reasonably popular to have ANY. So, thanks for placing me in a higher level of media status. I'm honored and quite flattered. Nice fedora.
Have a nice day, weirdo.
me (who you secretely wish you could be.)
Anonymus on January 15, 2018:
So Rocky Balboa is a real person or a based on character for a movie? Does his quotes count as quotes? Or are they just movie dialogues?
Dan W Miller (author) from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000 on May 09, 2015:
I am Chuck Wepner to you, "Champ!" My #1 fan inspires me. That's you, mate!
Currently I'm stuck on this Kindle and it makes writing difficult. But with your constant motivating replies, "Jodah," I'll find a way.
THANK YOU, PAL!
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on April 19, 2014:
Great hub Dan. What a brave fight Chuck put up against Ali. I had never heard of this fight but I can see why Sylvester Stallone was inspired to write 'Rocky' after watching it. Glad Wepner got a payout eventually. I had heard the story was based on a real fighter but never knew who so thanks for informing me. Voted up.
Dan W Miller (author) from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000 on December 22, 2013:
Yes, there is no mention of Chuck in the credits or anywhere else even though Stallone has always openly admitted that the man and the fight were the basis for the screenplay.
Could have saved a lot of money if he just cut Chuck a check right off the top.
drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 21, 2013:
Fantastic story, Dan, and unbelievable that it's all true. The least that Sly could have done with that movie was to give credit to Wepner. But I guess he received something as a result of the lawsuit.
Great job and great tribute to Chuck. 120 stitches? OMG!
Dan W Miller (author) from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000 on December 19, 2013:
See how Apollo's personality is like Ali's? I'll bet half of who watched the movies even know "Rocky" is based on a real person. I'll bet 99% of those don't even know his name and WHO the real hero is - Chuck Wepner! It's an INFORMATIVE read.
I've provided Chuck's official website, pictures and video from the fight along with a few other additions to my "cut and dried" story/hub while filling it with direct quotes, humor, drama, personal interaction with hub's subject and it's part of American sports (and cinema) history in a semi-biographical presentation.
Yet Hubpages did not publish it right away and give it a real lousy score. I wish I could get feedback from them so they can specifically tell me what they want along with possibly having it read/reviewed by a SPORTS FAN. I've made corrections and rewrote many parts of the hub.
Marko Vucinic from Cuprija, Sebia on December 19, 2013:
I didn't know that Rocky was a real person. I watched movies with Sylvester Stallone and I like to watch a part when he is fighting with the Champ.