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YouTube Gold: Chuck Wepner’s Big Night

This is still one of the greatest stories in boxing history

Chuck Wepner Swinging at Muhammad Ali
Chuck Wepner Swinging at Muhammad Ali

In 1976, a then-unknown actor and director named Sylvester Stallone released a movie called Rocky. It was a story of a guy who gets his one great shot at a champion and who makes the most of it before falling just short.

A lot of people don’t know that it’s based on a true story.

A guy named Chuck Wepner, known as the Bayonne Bleeder for, well, obvious reasons we hope, somehow scored a $100,000 dollar payday to fight Ali who was widely expected to take Wepner out early.

That didn't quite happen. Wepner got under Ali’s skin early, bothering him with what Ali said were blows to the back of his head. At one point he grabbed Wepner’s head and pounded it in the back to underscore his point.

But Wepner would not go away, and in the ninth, he scored a knockdown. Ali claimed Wepner stepped on his foot first, and the video is inconclusive. He could easily be right.

After that, though, Ali got mad and dominated the rest of the fight. Wepner’s one chance was a knockout which he didn't get. And unlike Rocky, he didn’t go the distance.

But he only missed by 19 seconds. And given the gap between Ali’s talent and his, that’s remarkable.