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The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia -- Title Contender
BORN September 12 1937; Toronto, Ontario, Canada HEIGHT.. 6-0 WEIGHT 202 3/4 - 232 lbs MANAGER Irving Ungerman TRAINER Teddy McWhorter
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 Iíd 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 donít 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 theyíll always mean something a little more special to me than a lot of the other guys. Youíre looking at me through American eyes. To me, Iím just a fighter, you know what I mean? I donít 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 youíre remembered as a boxer?
GC: First of all, it depends whoís 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. Iíll 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 youíve never been champion of the world you canít be satisfied. I guess I can say Iím proud of my achievements. Iím happy with some of the things Iíve done. I did OK. A fighter always thinks he coulda done better than he did. Thereís always a gnawing kind of feeling that I wish I could have been champion of the world. Thereís 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, youíll 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 didnít have the same physical attributes as he had in the first fight. He had flashes of it but he couldnít 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 didnít 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 didnít 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. Thatís why he called me the "Washer Woman." It sounds uncomplimentary but it really wasnít. 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: Thereís a few of them. I knocked out Doug Jones, something that Ali couldnít 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 didnít 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 whoíd beaten Ernie Terrell and a few other guys and had Frazier down before Frazier eventually stopped him.
BL: Weíve mentioned your strengths as a fighter, being a tough, aggressive fighter with a granite chin. What would you say was your one weakness that perhaps prevented you from becoming a world champion?
GC: A bad manager (laughing)! I think I should have fought more out of a crouch for one thing.
That would have been much more beneficial to me. I stood up too straight a lot of times. They always say I was a poor defensive fighter but I donít buy that one bit. If I show you fights from the old days youíd be surprised. But people only want to see you one way. Even when they see something different, they donít see it. I took a great shot, right? But I didnít take that great a shot like I got hit with every punch in the world. I took a good rap. I did, you know, but they had me walking around like Superman but I didnít like to get hit. Believe me I didnít (laughing).
BL: You fought during an era when boxing enjoyed a lot of success. Today, the sport appears to be on the decline, being overshadowed by football, basketball and now even hockey. What are your thoughts about the current state of the sport today?
GC: First of all, there arenít as many fighters as there were in the old days. The fighters donít have as much chance to hone their skills. Even great fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard only had about thirty five or forty fights. Itís like a joke. Willie Pep, Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, guys like that had one hundred fifty to two hundred fights! The guys now donít fight. The old guys had more chance to experience different styles and work on different things. They were more complete fighters and more experienced in the old days. Not to say that thereís anything wrong with Sugar Ray Leonard. Sugar Ray Leonard in his prime was a helluva fighter. Today, you donít have to fight as much because you make so much money. Youíre worried about taxes and stuff.
Take a look at Henry Armstrong. He fought three title fights in three weeks! He didnít have those kind of financial worries about making too much money. He didnít have his accountants fighting with him (laughing). But they do have great fighters today. You canít say Mike Tysonís not a helluva fighter. Holyfieldís a damn good fighter too. Golota can fight if heís got his thinking cap on. Thereís a few heavyweights out there but they just had more depth in the old days. In the old days you had to climb over more bodies to get to the top. Now, you donít have so many bodies hanging around. So itís a little easier that way plus the moneyís a lot more enticing today.
BL: Is there any boxer currently fighting today that reminds you of yourself as a fighter?
GC: You want to talk about guys who remind me of my style, thereís young David Tua. Heís a walk in and pitch kind of guy. I like him. He walks in. Heís not afraid of anyone. Heís got a lot of stamina and heís a strong kid. He doesnít punch enough in combinations but heís a tough kid.
And Tyson. Heís a tough kid. He walks right in. Heís that kind of a guy. Heís got lots of balls too. I like Tyson. Iíd like to meet Tyson and show him a couple of things. I could help Mike.
His problem is he doesnít know how to fight on the inside. If you take a look at his fight with Buster Mathis, Jr., he exposed that. Thereís a chink in the armor. Heís too straight up on the inside. If he ever pulled his right leg back, his whole upper body would be at a forty five degree angle. Heís have his head on the other guyís chest. Heíd be safe. The other guy would have no room for any leverage and Mike would have all the leverage. His stance works against him on the inside. Heís easy to push back and he canít fight when heís going backwards. But Mike is a helluva an athlete. Heís very quick, got great reflexes and punches like a bazooka. Heís the only guy out there in the heavyweights who can give you goosebumps.
BL: In your personal life, you have been dealt a tough hand with tragedies involving some close family members. How have you endured when others might have crumbled and do you think the physical and emotional toughness that you displayed in the ring helped you cope with life outside the ring?
GC: I only know who I am and I only know what I feel. I canít tell you what somebody else feels. Iíve been through hell. Iím going through hell. I go through hell every day. Iím in pain every day about my family. But that doesnít mean I still canít enjoy life. That doesnít mean that when I see my granddaughter Rachel and she tells me she loves me that I donít enjoy that. That doesnít mean that when I see my grandson Jesse and he puts his arms around me and tells me he loves me that I donít enjoy life. I see my grandchildren and I go nuts. They mean everything to me.
There isnít a day that goes by or a conversation that doesnít end up with "I love you." My children love me. They express themselves to me. My grandchildren do that. My new wife does that. Her children do that with me too. In one way Iím still lucky because Iím surrounded by people who care for me. I have some good friends too. If it wasnít for my friends and my beautiful remaining family, I wouldnít be here. Nobody can survive without love. Thatís the one thing that keeps me motivated to do anything. I was fifty six when I hooked up with my second wife. Can you imagine? Who the hell falls in love at fifty six? At fifty six youíre just suppose to look for a companion. I fell in love! I was walking around wounded. I was walking around stunned. I couldnít even get out of bed for a month and a half after my first wife died. All of a sudden I meet somebody. All of a sudden I got married. I know that without that, I couldnít have survived. Until you walk in my shoes, you donít really understand. I lost three kids and a wife. I needed something in my life. Joanne is my "Celestine Prophecy." If you get a chance, you should read that book. Itís a great book. Itís about people you meet and people you meet for a reason. Who do you think introduced me to my second wife? My first wife! They both used to work in the same emergency ward at a hospital. My first wife was an electrocardiogram technician and my second wife was a registered nurse. Who the hell knows how you meet certain people and why you meet certain people? Itís crazy.
BL: Except for a brief career by Marvis Frazier, it seems that the great fighters of your era, Ali, Foreman, Norton and yourself have discouraged their children from entering the ring. What is it about the sport of boxing that made you not want your children to become fighters?
GC: First of all, itís a very difficult business. Boxing is up and down. Thereís no guarantees like in football, hockey and baseball with those big, fat contracts. Once you make it to the pros, even the worst hockey player makes a good buck or the worst basketball player in the NBA or the worst baseball player, they all make a decent living. You could be the 1000th best in those sports, but man, if youíre the 1000th best in boxing, forget it (laughing). If youíre not in the top ten, forget it. Itís a tough business that way. And why should you mess with your looks? I used to be a good looking guy when I was a kid. Look what happened (laughing)! Whoíd want their kid to get a broken nose or a mashed up ear or possible brain damage even though theyíre making big money? Marvis ended up OK and made some good bucks and still got his brains in tact. Heís a very smart kid, a very nice kid. Marvis is a beautiful young guy who ended up OK but a lot of kids donít end up OK. Itís a business where you can get killed. Who the hell wants to put their kid in a business where he can get killed or end up punch drunk?
BL: Seeing Muhammad Ali now and how he struggles with Parkinson Syndrome, what are your thoughts? Do you feel sorry for him? Has his condition changed your views about boxing?
GC: Muhammadís got a certain grace about him no matter what happens. I donít feel sorry for him mainly because I see him as a happy person. I see him as a spiritual person. I see him with his family. I see him surrounded by love just like me in a way. That makes life worth living. When I see Muhammad I see a caring person. I see a loving person. I see a person surrounded by people who love him. Heís always receiving constant adulation no matter where he goes. Take a look at what happened at the Olympics in Atlanta. Heís gotta feel good about a lot of things even though he knows he canít communicate properly. Take a look at his face. Does he look unhappy? I donít think so. He knows heís appreciated. He knows heís loved. He knows heís important. He knows he has peopleís attention. So in that sense, he feels good. If you look at his face, he has the face of a happy person. He looks at peace with himself no matter that heís physically impaired to the point where he shakes and everything else. Itís almost embarrassing for him as he struggles with it. It took a lot of courage for him to go to Atlanta with the torch, a lot of courage just to show yourself the way he did after being a guy who was one of the greatest athletes of all time. Even with the shaking and the tremors and everything, there was something quite beautiful about it all. Collectively, the world for a few beautiful moments saw that.
BL: Since your retirement from boxing, have you kept active in the sport in any way?
GC: I was active in boxing with a number of fighters for a while after I quit boxing. I was involved in promotions, managing, training a few good fighters including Razor Ruddock and Johnny Tapia.
But it never really worked out the way I wanted. There always was something that seemed to go wrong. With the fighters, they never worked the way I wanted them to work. They never put out in the gym the way I wanted them to on a continual basis. For instance, if you look at Razor Ruddockís body when I had him ten years ago and look at his body now. Thereís a helluva difference that speaks for itself.
BL: You just turned 60. After all youíve been through during your boxing career and in your personal life, what advice would you give to someone trying to cope with adversity and life's challenges?
GC: All I know is that no matter what you have in life, you have to have love in your life. If you have to face adversity and we all do from time to time in our lives, you have to get the strength by feeding off the people that care about you. You have to feed off what you feel for other people too. Loving other people gives me strength. Other people loving me gives me strength. If it wasnít for love, I wouldnít be here. Itís as simple as that. In speeches, I talk about what helps keep people alive and how we have to have love tattooed in our psyche by hearing "I love you" from our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children and our grandchildren. That might sound so corny but thatís what keeps me alive. It just kind of reestablishes and reconfirms the way we feel about each other. Young people ought to know that a parent or a grandparent really cares about them.1956 Apr Ed McGee Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 Apr Ross Gregory Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 Apr Jim Leonard Toronto, Ont, Can KO 2 Apr Gordon Baldwin Toronto, Ont, Can KO 2 -The previous 4 bouts were part of a Jack Dempsey Heavyweight Novice Tournament Jun 11 Johnny Arthur Toronto, Ont, Can W 8 Sep 10 Joe Evans Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 Oct 22 Howard King Toronto, Ont, Can L 8 Nov 19 Bob Biehler Toronto, Ont, Can W 8 1957 Jan 14 Sid Russell Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 Mar 4 Walter Hafer Toronto, Ont, Can KO 3 -Some sources report 3/05/57 Mar 25 Moses Graham Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 Apr 22 Emil Brtko Toronto, Ont, Can TK 2 Jun 6 Joe Schmolze Fort William, Ont, Can KO 4 -Some sources report "Joe Olson" Sep 9 Bob Baker Toronto, Ont, Can L 10 -Some sources report "L 8" 1958 Jan 27 Julio Mederos Toronto, Ont, Can W 10 Apr 21 Howard King Toronto, Ont, Can KO 2 -Some sources report 4/22/58 Jun 16 Alex Miteff Toronto, Ont, Can D 10 Sep 15 James J. Parker Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada Oct 17 Pat McMurty New York, NY L 10 1959 Sep 14 Frankie Daniels Toronto, Ont, Can TK 7 Nov 17 Yvon Durelle Toronto, Ont, Can KO 12 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada 1960 Jul 19 Pete Rademacher Toronto, Ont, Can L 10 Aug 17 Bob Cleroux Montreal, Que, Can L 12 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada Nov 23 Bob Cleroux Montreal, Que, Can W 12 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada 1961 Mar 27 Alex Miteff Toronto, Ont, Can W 10 Jun 27 Willi Besmanoff Toronto, Ont, Can TK 4 Aug 8 Bob Cleroux Montreal, Que, Can L 12 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada Oct 2 Joe Erskine Toronto, Ont, Can LF 5 1963 Mar 15 Reco Brooks Detroit, Mi KO 2 Apr 22 James Wakefield Windsor, Ont, Can KO 6 Apr 29 Chico Gardner London, Ont, Can KO 4 May 18 Lloyd Washington Battle Creek, Mi KO 2 Sep 27 Mike DeJohn Louisville, Ky W 10 Nov 8 Tony Alongi Miami Beach, Fl D 10 1964 Jan 17 Zora Folley Cleveland, Oh L 10 Mar 18 Hugh Mercier Regina, SK, Can KO 1 Jul 27 Don Prout Bedford, Ont, Can KO 3 Oct 2 Doug Jones New York, NY TK 11 Nov 9 Calvin Butler Hull, Ont, Can KO 3 -Some sources report 11/10/64 1965 Feb 1 Floyd Patterson New York, NY L 12 Apr 19 Bill Nielson Toronto, Ont, Can TK 8 Jun 5 Sonny Andrews [Burns] St. John, NB, Can TK 1 -Some sources report 6/07/65 Jun 30 Dave Bailey Regina, SK, Can KO 3 Aug 17 Orvin Veazey Regina, SK, Can KO 2 Nov 1 Ernie Terrell Toronto, Ont, Can L 15 -WBA Heavyweight Championship of the World; Some sources report 11/02/65 Dec 7 Joe Bygraves London, Eng W 10 1966 Jan 25 Eduardo Corletti London, Eng L 10 -Some sources report 1/27/66 Mar 29 Muhammad Ali Toronto, Ont, Can L 15 -Heavyweight Championship of the World May 14 Levi Forte Glace Bay, NS, Can TK 2 Jun 23 Oscar "Ringo" Bonavena New York, NY L 10 -Some sources report 6/24/66 Aug 16 Mel Turnbow Toronto, Ont, Can KO 7 Sep 15 Bob Avery Edmonton, AB, Can KO 2 Oct 12 Dick Wipperman Montreal, Que, Can TK 5 Nov 20 Boston Jacobs Detroit, Mi TK 3 -Some sources report 11/21/66 Nov 28 Dave Russell St. John, NB, Can TK 2 Dec 16 Willie McCormick Labrador City, NL, Can KO 3 1967 Jan 16 Vic Brown Walpole, Ma KO 4 Feb 22 Dick Wipperman Akron, Oh TK 3 Mar 20 Buddy Moore Walpole, Ma KO 2 Apr 4 Willi Besmanoff Miami Beach, Fl KO 3 May 27 Willi Besmanoff Cocoa, Fl KO 2 Jun 22 Archie Ray Missoula, Mt TK 2 Jul 19 Joe Frazier New York, NY LT 4 1968 Jun 5 Jean-Claude Roy Regina, SK, Can W 12 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada Jun 30 Johnny Featherman Penticton, BC, Can KO 1 Sep 3 Levi Forte Miami Beach, Fl TK 2 Sep 17 Vic Brown Toronto, Ont, Can TK 3 Sep 26 Manuel Ramos New York, NY TK 5 -Some sources report 9/28/68 Nov 12 Dante Cane Toronto, Ont, Can TK 7 1969 Feb 3 Buster Mathis New York, NY L 12 Sep 8 Stanford Harris Lethbridge, AB, Can KO 2 Nov 16 Leslie Bordon Kimberley, BC, Can TK 3 Dec 12 Jerry Quarry New York, NY KO 7 1970 May 1 Willie Tiger Detroit, Mi KO 10 -Some sources report "KO 4" May 10 Gino Ricci Kimberley, BC, Can TK 1 Jun 30 Charlie Reno Seattle, Wa KO 3 Aug 4 George Foreman New York, NY LT 3 Aug 15 Mike Bruce Sarajevo, Bosnia KO 2 Oct 24 Tommy Burns Hamilton, Ont, Can KO 1 Nov 5 Tony Ventura Montreal, Que, Can TK 4 Dec 11 Charles Couture Youngstown, Oh KO 2 1971 May 10 Jimmy Ellis Toronto, Ont, Can L 10 Nov 17 Cleveland Williams Houston, Tx W 10 1972 Jan 28 Charlie Chase Vancouver, BC, Can TK 6 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada Feb 21 Jim Christopher Winnipeg, MB, Can KO 2 May 1 Muhammad Ali Vancouver, BC, Can L 12 -NABF Heavyweight Championship Aug 10 Tommy Burns Nelson, BC, Can KO 1 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada Sep 5 Charlie Boston Port-au-Prince, Haiti KO 2 1973 Sep 25 Tony Ventura Cheektowaga, NY TK 3 -Some sources report "Buffalo, NY" Oct 30 Mike Boswell Cheektowaga, NY KO 7 -Some sources report "Buffalo, NY" 1977 Mar 7 Bob Felsteinn Toronto, Ont, Can KO 9 Dec 8 Earl McLeay Toronto, Ont, Can KO 1 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada 1978 Dec 11 George Jerome Toronto, Ont, Can KO 2 -Heavyweight Championship of Canada 1979 Jul 30 Danny Barnabic Toronto, Ont, Can EX 5
Record courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization
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