Chuck Wepner, the classic fall guy, managed to stand up for 14 bloody rounds with Muhammad Ale last night, until the relaxed world heavyweight champion calmly decked him with 19 seconds left in the final stanza of the world championship bout in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Bayonne, N.J., liquor salesman with the flattened nose and battered professional record fell to a flurry of blows from a jabbing, quick-punching Ali.
The champion was in command throughout and looked as if he could end the fight at any point as the slow-moving Wepner plodded through the ring throwing off-the-mark punches at his classier target.
Ali takes home a hefty $1.5 million, but Wepner has to settle for only $1,00,000 of the purse.
No sooner had the fight ended than Ali fell to the floor of the ring, near his corner, as his handlers rushed to his aid. He appeared groggy after he regained his feet.
But Wepner's handlers had to hold him up to keep him from falling off his stool after the knockout.
For a time it appeared that Wepner would chug along until the end of the fight, but the 33-year-old champion lashed out with two combinations to the head that sent Wepner to his rendezvous with the canvas.
Ali also touched ground once, in the ninth round, after tripping over the challenger's foot. Referee Tony Perez ruled it a knockdown and gave the surprised Louisville, Ky., native a mandatory eight-count.
Enraged, Ali came back with a fierce group of rights to Wepner's head that sent the challenger reeling.