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Boxer Chuck Wepner Decked Muhammad Ali

The fighter who inspired Rocky

Whether Ali was knocked down in the ninth round — that's what Perez, the referee, ruled — is debatable. Ali claimed after the fight that he fell because Wepner was standing on his right foot when he was backing away. A photo of the moment appears to confirm it.

Wepner begs to differ. "In a fight, if somebody steps on your foot and knocks you down, you jump up and start screaming. Ali never did that. He took the eight count."

Still, he has a framed photo of a young Ali, sent to Wepner when he married Linda. Ali's inscription reads: "To Chuck and Linda: Good luck to my dear friends. Love, Muhammad Ali. After me, there will never be another. (Get off my foot)."

A few days before the bout, Wepner bought a powder-blue negligee for his then-second wife, Phyllis. "As I left the hotel the night of the fight I told her, 'I want you to wear this to bed because tonight you're going to be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world,' " Wepner said.

"After the fight I come back to the hotel and walk into the room and she's sitting on the edge of the bed, wearing the negligee, and she says, 'Am I going to Ali's room or is he coming to mine?' "

Bruce Lowitt, a freelance writer living in the Tampa Bay area, is a former sports features writer for the Associated Press and the St. Petersburg Times.

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