The Last Round: Muhammad Ali VS George Chuvalo Documentary
This is a great documentary of a bygone era.
It is kind of interesting how they were talking about boxing being “in trouble” back then.
Chuvalo is a grade A tough guy. Pure G.
G Manifesto Hall of Fame member as well.
Chuvalo was rough, tough and very strong; He had a “cast iron” chin, similar to that of the great Jim Jeffries; He fought the hardest of punchers – George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Cleveland Williams, Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena, Yvon Durelle – and was never knocked down; During his career, he won the Heavyweight Championship of Canada
George was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997
Interview conducted by Barry Lindenman
BL: You come from Canada which is known for turning out tough, rugged hockey players. You were known as a tough and rugged boxer. How did you get involved in the sport of boxing when it appears from your boxing style that you would have made a great hockey player as well?
GC: You think I fight like a hockey player (laughing)? You think all Canadians are tough? I thought they were mostly “stick and move” guys (laughing). As a kid, I remember when I first opened up a Ring magazine. It was the first time I’d ever seen anything about boxing, heard anything about boxing or even knowing about boxing. For me it was like when a kid opens up the centerfold of Playboy. To me, it was like “wow, this is it!” I thought it was like the greatest thing in the world. I saw pictures of guys with all these muscles throwing punches shots at each other. I guess it was the respect for power that really turned me on to boxing as a young man.
BL: Did you have a certain boxing role model that you patterned your style after?
GC: No, not really. There was a lot of guys I liked but I don’t think I ever tried to fight like this guy or that guy. I grew up watching Joe Louis, Willie Pep and Ray Robinson. As a kid when I first started to box, those guys were champions of the world so they’ll always mean something a little more special to me than a lot of the other guys. You’re looking at me through American eyes. To me, I’m just a fighter, you know what I mean? I don’t think I had a Canadian style or an American style. My style was just mine, just walk in and pitch.
BL: You will always be remembered as a long time heavyweight contender who fought the best, took their best shots and was never knocked off his feet either as a pro or an amateur. Are you satisfied with your reputation and how you’re remembered as a boxer?
GC: First of all, it depends who’s trying to remember me. Certain guys may think of me in a certain way and other guys may think of me in another way. Most people think I was a tough guy who took a good rap. I think I was a lot better defensive fighter than I was ever given credit for. I’ll go down in history as a supposed tough guy who fought a lot of tough guys, beat a lot of tough guys, lost to some tough guys. I was there. I was a contender for almost a couple of decades and knocked on the door a few times, but am I satisfied, hell no! If you’ve never been champion of the world you can’t be satisfied. I guess I can say I’m proud of my achievements. I’m happy with some of the things I’ve done. I did OK. A fighter always thinks he coulda done better than he did. There’s always a gnawing kind of feeling that I wish I could have been champion of the world. There’s a piece of me that always feels kinda incomplete. All in all, I did a lot better in life than most guys. I was ranked number two in the world at one time. Not too many guys can say they were number two in the world, except Hertz, me and Hertz (laughing)!
BL: Having faced such great fighters such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, who would you say was the hardest puncher you ever faced in the ring?
GC: It was neither of those guys. Mike Dejohn was a real good wacker. Mike Dejohn knocked out a lot of guys in one round. Mike Dejohn was a good banger. Foreman was a good banger too, of course. Mel Turnbaugh was also. I guess they were about the three hardest punchers: George Foreman, Mel Turnbaugh and Mike Dejohn.
BL: During your great career, you fought Muhammad Ali twice and went the distance with him both times. You first fought him in 1966 just before his three year exile from the sport and then again in 1972 soon after his return to the ring. What differences did you notice in Ali in the two times that you fought him and did you alter your strategy between the first and second fights?
GC: You got it wrong. Ali went the distance with me both times (laughing). I threw more head punches in the second fight. In the first fight, I concentrated on maybe 75 – 80 % to the body.
I kinda switched it the other way around in the second fight. I fought a smarter fight the second time. I hit him with a lot of jabs in the second fight. Nobody ever talks about that but if you look at the film, you’ll notice I hit him with a lot of jabs. But I still think I should have worked the body more than I did. I worked the body too much in the first fight and not enough in the second fight. The second fight was still a very close, hard fought fight. Some sportswriters even thought I won the second fight. How was Ali different? He was just more energetic in the first fight. He threw more punches and had more verve in a sense. He was trying to get by in the second fight with a lot of guile. He didn’t have the same physical attributes as he had in the first fight. He had flashes of it but he couldn’t sustain it like he could in the first fight. In the first fight, he was a much better conditioned athlete. After his exile, he never really came back. He never came back to the fighter he was before he was put into exile. He was never that fighter ever, ever, ever again. Even though he fought some great fights after with Joe Frazier for instance, he was never the same fighter. When he beat George Foreman he beat him by using his brains. He sucked him in with the “rope – a – dope.” He didn’t beat him on physical ability as much as a well planned fight plan. He used his intelligence and general boxing savvy and let Foreman punch himself out. Then he just took over. But he was not the same athlete ever again.
BL: Ali was famous for giving his opponents nicknames. Sonny Liston was the Bear, Joe Frazier was the Gorilla. He nicknamed you the “Washer Woman.” Do you know what he meant by that?
GC: In September of 1963, I beat Mike Dejohn, knocked him colder than Missouri mule. I knocked him out with a left hook and pummeled him over the ropes. It didn’t occur to me until twenty five years later in 1988 why he called me the “Washer Woman.” It was because in the fight with Dejohn, I had his back draped way over the ropes and I already had him knocked out. I had him pinned against the ropes and I started pummeling him, just beating on a knocked out guy. It looked like I was working on a scrub board. That’s why he called me the “Washer Woman.” It sounds uncomplimentary but it really wasn’t. Ali said George Chuvalo fights rough and tough like a “Washer Woman.” It was a kind of a cute term.
BL: Although you never won a world title during your career, what would you say was your greatest moment in your boxing career?
GC: There’s a few of them. I knocked out Doug Jones, something that Ali couldn’t do. In fact, a lot of people thought he actually beat Ali. I knocked out Jerry Quarry when a lot of people thought I would lose to Quarry. I knocked him out with a second to go in the seventh round. After the Frazier fight, my eyes had a propensity to swell up very rapidly so in the fight with Quarry, I fought like a one eyed cat peeping in a seafood store for about four rounds. The referee told me if the eye gets any worse he was gonna stop the fight so if I didn’t knock him out when I did, they would have stopped the fight. I also knocked out Manuel Ramos in five rounds. He was the Mexican champion who’d beaten Ernie Terrell and a few other guys and had Frazier down before Frazier eventually stopped him.
He fought everyone and anyone who meant anything in the heavyweight division in the 50’s, 60s and 70’s. No one ever knocked him down, and only Joe Frazier and George Foreman were able to stop the man who Muhammad Ali called “The Washer Woman.” Make no mistake; George Chuvalo was no washer woman. In fact he was without question the toughest of the tough; the most rugged of the top men of his day.
He faced, in a career that spanned 22 years, the aforementioned Ali, Frazier, and Foreman, plus Floyd Patterson, Jerry Quarry, Doug Jones, Cleveland Williams, Brian London, Jimmy Ellis, Ernie Terrell, Zora Folley, Mike DeJohn, Robert Cleroux, Manuel Ramos, and Oscar Bonavena. Even before he was experienced enough he was put in with ranked contenders, Howard King, Big Bob Baker, Julio Mederos, and Alex Miteff. George turned pro in 1956 winning four fights by quick KOs in one night.
This all begs the question; how is it possible that Chuvalo looks (okay, his nose is a little mushy) and sounds as though he never stepped into the ring let alone absorbed the punches of the toughest men in the world? Just ask Chuvalo for an answer to that. He has a theory that appears to have validity.
“Some guys are built for speed,” explained the former Canadian heavyweight boss. “Some guys are built for power. Your body type dictates your style, I was a walk in pitcher, and I didn’t move too much. I wanted to walk in and slug it out. I can tell you the guy who won’t take a good shot; the guy with the small head and a neck like a stack of dimes.”
He explained that fighters who had bigger heads and short powerful necks were better equipped to take a hard punch than a guy with a skinny neck and a narrow or small head. He mentioned a few examples of fighters who have had that innate ability to take punches and that list included Jake LaMotta, Tex Cobb, and himself.
“And even Ali,” he added. “He took a pretty good rap, even though he’d been down a few times.”
The Rest is Up to You…
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AKA The Peoples Champ
AKA GFK, Jr.
AKA The Sly, Slick and the Wicked
AKA The Voodoo Child
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