Chuck Wepner has an excessive amount of occurring for most cancers to sluggish him down. He would be the sufferer of a star roast in October, and a statue of his likeness is scheduled to be unveiled this winter, and one other film based mostly on his life and boxing profession is about to premier in December.

Oh, and the actor who performed him within the most up-to-date film – the critically acclaimed “Chuck” – retains asking him to come back to Manhattan and hang around on the set of his TV present. Liev Schreiber, who now stars in “Ray Donovan,” has grow to be the newest superstar to enter Wepner’s orbit and discover it an excessive amount of enjoyable to depart.

Wepner loves to inform a narrative about him “teaching” Schreiber earlier than the actor filmed the opening scene of that film. It depicted an evening when Wepner stepped into ring to struggle a bear in one of many many, many unusual however true episodes from his colourful life.

“I informed him, ‘When the bear comes at you, you have to step to the precise and spin him, and hit him with a hook such as you do in a struggle,'” Wepner stated. “Schreiber appears to be like at me and says, ‘Are you out of your thoughts? I am not getting near that bear! We’re taking pictures in clips. I am not going to be within the ring with an actual bear!'”

The bear received by a TKO that evening. However most cancers? Wepner has to beat it – he has an excessive amount of to do, an excessive amount of life left to reside. Nonetheless, as his 80th birthday approaches in February, it is not straightforward.

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The person they known as the “Bayonne Bleeder,” the one who famously lasted 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and impressed the long-lasting film “Rocky,” was identified with rectal most cancers final August after a routine colonoscopy. He had surgical procedure to take away the contaminated tissue – “they took out two and a half kilos of stuff,” he stated – after which chemo and 30 days of radiation.

The restoration, he stated, is the arduous half. He has misplaced 30 kilos from his imposing 6-foot-5 body. He struggles to sleep at evening. The most cancers medical doctors, he stated, gave him a clear invoice of well being final week. That is the excellent news. However the therapeutic is a sluggish course of.

“Someday I am constipated. The following day I’ve diarrhea. Plus, I misplaced the load,” he stated. “I haven’t got any power. I misplaced my mojo. You do not really feel like doing something. When you stand up within the morning and also you do have three or 4 hours of sleep, you simply have no pep.

“Many of the stuff I misplaced was muscle mass, sadly. You may see my arm” – he jiggles the pores and skin underneath his proper bicep – “I’ve by no means had that.”

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This comes on the heels of a collection of different well being issues in recent times, together with spinal stenosis, main again surgical procedure and a hip alternative.

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“It hasn’t been a enjoyable time the final 5 or 6 years,” Wepner stated as he leaned again in an outsized recliner in his Bayonne apartment. “They discuss in regards to the golden years, however my golden years have not been too nice. However I am nonetheless right here!”

Nonetheless right here. Nonetheless making individuals smile. Wepner is among the best characters ever from New Jersey, one whose underdog story is someway as interesting now because it was within the mid-70s when it impressed a younger actor named Sylvester Stallone.

First got here “Rocky.” Then got here “Chuck,” a retelling of the real-life story of his struggle with Ali. Now, it is “The Brawler,” a film that, Wepner stated, will delve deeper into his life after the struggle, together with his arrest for cocaine possession and his authorized struggle with Stallone. Even Wepner appears a bit mystified that one life might produce three motion pictures.

Then once more, it has been an attention-grabbing life. When Ali died in 2016, Wepner was in every single place telling tales a couple of man who, many years after their 1975 struggle in Cleveland, turned a very good buddy. He has a photograph on the again of his enterprise playing cards of the second, within the ninth spherical, when Wepner shocked Ali with a punch that dropped him to the canvas.

“I confirmed it to him,” Wepner stated. “He appears to be like at it, then appears to be like at me, and he says, ‘You recognize I by no means appreciated that picture.'”

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Ali was a worldwide icon, however in Hudson County, Wepner would have knocked him out in a reputation contest. The statue, with Wepner glowering off within the distance and a hood pulled over his head, will quickly be a fixture at Stephen R. Gregg-Bayonne County Park in Bayonne. The Dean Martin-style roast on October 25 will assist cowl a number of the prices, and Wepner is aware of there will probably be no scarcity of individuals armed with one-liners.

If Gov. Phil Murphy is amongst them, chances are high, he’ll be dressed casually. Wepner, who is aware of the state’s governors relationship again many years, provided him some free recommendation once they met at a marketing campaign operate.

“One factor I can let you know: You present up for dinner with a number of common individuals, do not put on your $3000 go well with!” Wepner stated. “‘Gown down slightly bit.’ The following time I see him, he is in Bayonne at a dinner. He is in a sports activities coat with dungarees. ‘How’d I do, champ?'”

The champ smiles. Ali may need stopped him in 15 rounds 4 many years in the past, however most cancers is getting counted out. “I will beat it,” he stated. He has an excessive amount of to do. He has an excessive amount of life to reside.

Steve Politi could also be reached at [email protected] Observe him on Twitter @StevePoliti. Discover Steve on Fb.



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