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Bayonne to unveil Chuck Wepner statue in Collins Park

After many years, the bronze statue will be installed and unveiled at the park on November 12

The mold of the statue of Chuck Wepner stands tall at Dillin Tire Company in Bayonne. Photo by Victor Rodriguez.

Bayonne will unveil a statue of Bayonne boxing legend Chuck Wepner on Saturday, November 12, at 12 p.m., in Dennis P. Collins Park, Mayor James Davis. The “Bayonne Bleeder,” who is 83-years-old, will finally see the installation of his statue in his hometown.

The event will take place on 1st Street between Avenue C and Zabriskie Avenue. Various public officials, including Wepner himself, will attend the ceremony, and the event is open to the public.

“The City of Bayonne is very proud of Chuck Wepner,” Davis said. “We are very happy that he will be with us in person on November 12 to enjoy the long-awaited unveiling of the statue, which is sure to become a very popular attraction in Dennis P. Collins Park.”

Years in the making

Bayonne businessman Bruce Dillin spearheaded the effort to raise funds for the completion of the statue. Dillin is a close friend and perhaps the biggest fan of Wepner who runs a small museum dedicated to the boxer out of the lobby of his auto repair shop in Bayonne off of Kennedy Boulevard, Dillin Tire Company.

Dillin has been seeking to erect a statue of the boxing legend at the top of the stairs in Bayonne’s county park since 2015. By 2017, Dillin had found a sculptor, and he didn’t have to look far.

Next door neighbor Zhen Wu, a Chinese-born artist and Bayonne resident, agreed to sculpt the mold for the 2,500 pound bronze statue for free as long as Dillin provided what he needed. It took Wu six months to sculpt the clay before the mold was complete

However, Dillin still needed the funds to have the statue cast in bronze using that mold. So he set out to raise the money himself.

Dillin has held a number of fundraisers, including a premiere of the movie “Chuck” starring Liev Schreiber and the Roast of Chuck Wepner. The proceeds of both fundraisers went toward the cost of the statue, which has sat in a state of near-completion at a bronze foundry in Philadelphia for the longest time.

After many years of fundraising, in April he held the last of three major events. That brought in enough money to bring the statue from the foundry back to Bayonne.

A Bayonne boxing legend

Wepner’s professional boxing career lasted from 1964 to 1978. He won 35 matches including 17 knockouts, lost 14 matches, and had 2 draws.

Wepner held the USA New Jersey Heavyweight title and the National Americas Heavyweight title. In one of his most famous matches, Wepner was 19 seconds short of a full fifteen rounds with Muhammed Ali in 1975.

Iconically, Wepner was the inspiration for Silvester Stallone’s character in the Rocky movies. The scene from the film where Rocky runs up and down the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in preparation for the big fight is said to be inspired by Wepner.

Wepner apparently ran up and down the stairs in Stephen R. Gregg Hudson County Park in preparation for his fight with Ali. However, the statue will not be in the county park, but Bayonne’s largest municipal park, Collins Park, which has recently seen the opening of Phase II renovations.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.