Chuvalo: A Fighter's Life: The Story of Boxing's Last Gladiator
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The inspirational memoir of the Canadian boxer who fought some of the greatest heavyweights in history, including Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, but lost everything outside the ring.
From a tough Toronto childhood as the only son of immigrant parents, through a twenty-three-year career that earned him induction into the World Boxing Hall of Fame, to the public tragedies that decimated his family long after the cheering stopped, George Chuvalo tells his life story as only he can.
Chuvalo was the longest-reigning champion in Canadian boxing history. After teaching himself the basics, he turned pro as an eighteen-year-old in 1956 and over the next twenty-three years fought some of the sport's greatest names: Joe Frazier, George Foreman and, most famously, Muhammad Ali (twice). Since retiring from the ring in 1979, Chuvalo has had to come to terms with a series of crushing body blows. His youngest son, a heroin addict, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Two other sons died from heroin overdoses. His first wife, overcome with grief, took her own life. Yet Chuvalo has stoically fought back. He formed his Fight Against Drugs foundation in 1996 and has spent the past seventeen years travelling across Canada and to parts of the United States, talking to tens of thousands of students and young adults about what happened to his family.
An inspirational story of a Canadian icon, Chuvalo is both a top-flight boxing memoir and a poignant, hard-hitting story of coping with unimaginable loss.
defense by obliterating Floyd Patterson in their title rematch. I was excited at the prospect and figured Nilon’s offer would be at least $100,000. We met in a warehouse, of all places, so maybe that should have been a foreshadowing of the gross disappointment that was to follow. Nilon came right to the point. “You wanna fight Sonny, George?” “Absolutely. How much?” “Twenty-five grand. Take it or leave it.” I was stunned. Twenty-five grand in 1963 didn’t have nearly the buying power that it
Britain, who said he thought I was robbed. We accepted his offer to fight former British Commonwealth champ Joe Bygraves on December 7 at Royal Albert Hall in London. When it came to selling a fight, nothing was too outrageous for Barrett. Bygraves was Jamaican, and as soon as the deal was done, at Barrett’s urging the British press dredged up the same old “White Hope” angle that was used when I fought Patterson. Barrett also said the winner would be “guaranteed” a shot at Henry Cooper’s
reverberating through the packed Kosevo Stadium—which was adorned with a massive portrait of Marshal Josip Broz Tito at one end—I knocked Bruce out with a left hook to the head. The referee didn’t even bother to count. As soon as Bruce hit the deck, the place exploded. I’d never fought in front of such a partisan crowd in my life—and I never would again. They were yelling and chanting my name like I’d just won the championship of the world. It went on and on, until a bunch of my relatives who
can get him. I’m not gonna let it be said there was ever a heavyweight that didn’t fall. They have pictures showing my heels. Jack Johnson fell. Jack Dempsey fell. Joe Louis and Joe Frazier, they fell. And on May 1, George Chuvalo is gonna fall! I know you’ve never been knocked down, George, but you’ve been on one knee, haven’t you?” “Only in church,” I said, playing the straight man. “Well, you better do some more prayin,’ ‘cuz this time you’ve got to go! I won’t name the round, but it rhymes
find my punching rhythm. As it turned out, I was the one who eventually got up on my toes (at 249 pounds!) and started firing the jab. I finally dropped Felstein with a left hook about 30 seconds into the ninth round. He regained his feet as Davis tolled eight, but there was blood pouring from Bobby’s mouth and he wore a frightened look that told me he was ready to go. I knew I had him. A right uppercut to the jaw, followed by a left to the ribs and another right to the head floored him again,