Former world heavyweight title challenger and good friend to BoxingInsider.com Chuck Wepner took time out to talk some pugilism. The living legend from Bayonne, N.J. who gave Muhammad Ali some “Rocky” moments in 1975 as well as Sylvester Stallone plenty of inspiration to make one of the best films in Hollywood history in 1976, discusses the current state of the heavyweight division, the true height of Wladimir Klitschko, Manny Pacquiao, and how the current heavyweights stack up against his era…
BoxingInsider: What is your take on the current state of the heavyweight division and the reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko?
Chuck Wepner: “I didn’t see his last performance (TKO 9 Ruslan Chagaev on June 20). But I’m very up-to-date with the heavyweight division. The Klitschkos, they’re from Russia (actually Ukraine), they have that European style, which is not real exciting. But he’s such a nice young man. Him and his brother actually. I think they’re both doctors, they’re very nice young men. They’re heavyweight champions of the world, both of them. He’s a tough guy. The European style maybe isn’t exciting to some of the Americans but it gets the job done. And you never hear anything bad about him. Never hear about him getting arrested. Unfortunately that’s what’s wrong with a lot of our American boxers – they get titles, they get a little crazy. But the Klitschkos I think will be champions for a while. I don’t see anyone on the horizon.
BoxingInsider: Have you ever met them personally?
Chuck Wepner: I met them both, especially Wladimir. I met him at the Golden Gloves (finals) in New York (Madison Square Garden). Because I was a former New York and national Golden Gloves champion. He got in the ring for an introduction. He said, Chuck! You don’t believe what I did. I cried from the Ukraine, I watched TV and they got fight on TV. Guess who’s fighting? I said, Me? He says, Yes, you. How do you know this?! He’s like a kid. Clean cut, clean living. I’m happy – even though he’s not an American – at least we got a champion that we can be proud of.
BoxingInsider: What else do you remember about meeting him in person?
Chuck Wepner: Well, about meeting him – is that I’m taller than him [smiles]. Everybody says he’s 6-foot-6, he’s not 6-6. He’s 6-4. Because I’m taller than he is. I’m 6-5. So he’s about 6-4 and you could see he’s muscled up. Not bulky muscle but he’s lean and like lean and mean.
BoxingInsider: How do you think Klitschko would do against guys from your era?
Chuck Wepner: Well, to be honest with you, my era, which was early seventies, top 10 in the world, there was only one ranking – Ring magazine. There was me, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Terrell, Bonavena, Quarry. Any one of these guys could have been champion of the world. I think he would have had a hard time with somebody like Ali. Ali was so fast and just so good. There was a couple of really good heavyweights – Norton was tough. Sonny Liston was a big puncher. He fought Ali twice – the second fight I think they scared him out of it. The first fight Ali beat him up. Ali is so great he just beat him up. I think in the second fight, he was just so discouraged from the first fight, the punch that landed wasn’t really that much. I think he said, I’m not gonna beat him anyway, so.
BoxingInsider: True. But Klitschko seems so difficult to fight with his height, power, footwork and jab. He’s like a matador in there.
Chuck Wepner: Well, he’s been down a few times, he’s been beaten. Lately, he’s better because the division isn’t so good. I don’t think there’s any heavyweights out there really that could even test Klitschko now. He’s the best heavyweight out there. There’s no real competition at heavyweight now.
BoxingInsider: Do you think it’s a weak era?
Chuck Wepner: I think it’s a weak era. And he’s also a very good fighter but I think it’s a weak era. You look at his top 10 guys – come on. I just named the top 10 when I was there. Just think of them – Norton, Frazier. I was ranked in the top 10 for 42 straight months. In them days, to be ranked in the top 10, not only held a title – I held the NABA heavyweight championship – it was a tough division. And I’m proud to say I was from the seventies.”
BoxingInsider: What do you think of Manny Pacquiao? And Pacquiao vs. Mayweather and Mayweather vs. Marquez – what’s your opinion?
Chuck Wepner: Oh wow, I love Pacquiao. He’s exciting to watch, he has an exciting style. All of his fights are always entertaining. Unfortunately, Mayweather, who I think is a great fighter, he retired and it’s tough to come back. Marquez and Pacquiao are going to be tough fights for Mayweather. Mayweather is a great fighter. But these two are tough too. Now – I think Pacquiao might win. Three or four years ago I don’t think anybody could have beaten Mayweather. Now I think Pacquiao or Marquez could be the best fighter pound for pound. Pacquiao is younger, he hasn’t been laid off.”