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Posted on 11/02/2016

By: Ken Hissner

George Chuvalo could have won an Emmy for his performance in FACING ALI. He fought them all and was never an easy opponent. Others that fought Ali were “Smoking” Joe Frazier, Big George Foreman, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Ernie Terrell, Sir Henry Cooper, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle and Leon Spinks. This writer met five of them. This was a masterpiece. The following are some comments from the movie by the 10 who faced Ali:


Ali was shot when he fought Holmes. We all know that. This writer was up at Ali’s Deer Lake camp and I never saw him so fat prior for the Holmes fight. I told him “you and Max Baer had two of the best physics among the champions but look at you now.” I knew he was going to get beat by the arrogant Holmes for the whipping’s he put on him in the gym. He patted his belly and said “I like my ice cream.”

SIR HENRY COOPER: His nose was bleeding in the first round. In the 4th round he was showboating with his hands down and I dropped him with a left hook. He was supposed to have fast hands and feet and I found out he did. We fought in Wembly Stadium before forty-thousand people. Ali had a big heart, good chin and fast hands. What more could you ask for?

GEORGE CHUVALO: In the second Ali-Liston fight if Ali won he was fighting Floyd Patterson and I would fight Liston. Liston takes a dive! Every fighter that came to this country shed their blood in the ring. Ali was revered more than any boxer in history. When I first saw him he was dressed like a preppy white guy. He called me a washer woman, a wild man. So I dressed up like a washer woman for the press conference. After he changed his name he was like a pariah hated by everybody. Liston was scared to death of the Muslims. I was vocal and voiced my opinion. Ali was to fight Terrell in Rutherford Stadium in New Jersey but the boxing commission would not allow him to fight. So he chose me and to fight in Canada. He was the fastest fighter I ever fought. The plan was to go to the body and tire him out but I couldn’t get close enough to the body after the first round. Ali was shot when he fought Holmes. Ali challenged me to hit him in the body but after the first round he was moving away. After the fight he went to the hospital and I went dancing with my wife (dancing for the camera).

“BIG” GEORGE FOREMAN: Was I jealous of Ali? Sure I was for he’s tall and good looking. Everybody was jealous of him. When he met Malcolm X he was fed a bunch of un-trues! Boxing had some effect on him but this Parkinson’s disease is something (shaking his head). I look at him today and he’s a hero. He was the greatest fighter I ever fought! The best punch Ali threw never hit me for on the way down he could have hit me again but didn’t. In the first 3 rounds I felt comfortable. After the fourth round it was a different fight. He would say “is that all you got George?”

“SMOKING” JOE FRAZIER: Ali’s a great guy (Joe was wiping tears away). He said he was the greatest. I wanted to shut him down. His mom and dad didn’t want any part of Islam and mom and dad always know best. He kept saying “Frazier got my title, Frazier got my title and I want it back”. I just wanted to bury him. He thought with all that talk he would scare me. I (laughing) could go into a jungle and fight a lion with a toothpick.

LARRY HOLMES: I applaud Ali’s situation not entering the Army. My trainer (Ernie Butler) knew Angelo Dundee so he got me to go to Deer Lake. My plan was to back him to the ropes. He gave me a black eye and I was proud to show everyone. At the camp all the boxers were jealous of each other. Ali gave us a bonus and they started asking how much did I get? He didn’t have to give me anything for I was on a weekly salary. In our fight after the referee’s instructions he called me everything in the book. I never heard Ali curse before. I loved him like a brother.

RON LYLE: The game hasn’t changed. It’s just different people playing a part. When Ali came into the game he took it to another level. He meant a lot to the black community and he still does today. I had a brother killed in Viet-Nam so I could understand Ali’s stand. I was in prison when this all happened. When he came back he was still ahead of the pack but they were starting to reach him. Every fighter in the top ten knew Mr. Frazier could fight. I tip my hat off to him. After eleven rounds I was ahead. (Getting stopped in the 13th round Lyle took 25 straight punches without any in return trying to do the rope-a-dope.) He was all about love.

KEN NORTON: Ali had to know what it felt like to be on the end of his comments. After the second fight I told him “let’s do it again!” When he was sick with Parkinson’s I saw him sitting there and I said “Ali” and he slowly turned around and in a whisper said “Norton”. In our first fight he gave my son more food, better clothes and a better life by fighting him.

EARNIE SHAVERS: You can lose your life in the ring giving people what they want to see. Ali was a very unique guy. When he fought Chuvalo no one took shots like Chuvalo. He’s the only fighter I know who wasn’t affected by boxing afterwards. He was a tough, tough durable guy. Ali was a smart fighter. I couldn’t have fought a better champion than Ali. He changed my whole life. I thought I beat him until I saw the replay.

LEON SPINKS: Ali was my idol! He was a big thing for all of us guys. Then Ali changed his name when he turned to Islam with names like Hooey Hooey and Wali Wali (Spinks laughs). My name is Leon and there’s nothing white about that. Any man’s old when he’s 36 when I fought Ali. There was no one like Ali. No one could be like him! Holmes said he beat the heavyweight champ (Ali). No, he beat the former champ. Bullshit.

ERNIE TERRELL: I have a belt and want another (Ali’s). I didn’t know who gangsters were (he was managed by them). Two days before the Ali fight I was on the Jack Benny show singing “won’t you come home Cassius….” I knew he was fast but not that fast! In the second round he grabbed me grabbed me by the neck against the ropes and thumbed me and rubbed my eye (left) along the ropes. I had to fight peek-a-boo the rest of the way. He kept saying “what’s my name?” I wouldn’t call him Muhammad Ali. I asked for a rematch but never got one.

MUHAMMAD ALI: I am the King of the world. I am a bad man (prior to meeting Liston the first time). Only Frazier hit me harder than Shavers. Frazier couldn’t talk and he couldn’t sing. He hit me harder than Shavers. I told you all I was the greatest of all time and that I would be champ by 1963 (3 years after turning pro). I thought Cooper would only be a warm-up until I got that big ugly bear Liston until he hit me with that left hook putting me into the ropes. I don’t believe in forced integration. Turning my back on Malcolm X was the biggest mistake of my life. In 1966 I told them “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet-Cong and I was banned from boxing in 1967. Germans are from Germany, Italians are from Italy, Jap’s are from Japan. Where are the Negro’s from?

Ali is usually rated No. 1 to No. 4 in most people’s estimation. Whether he was better than Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis or Jack “The Galveston Giant” is debatable. One thing for sure there was never anyone like Ali in or let alone out of the ring. I first met him in center city Philly on a corner surrounded by people after losing the first Norton fight. Two weeks later thanks to the Philly Daily News I saw his old house at 70th and Overbrook in West Philly and his new house in Cherry Hill near the Arena. Knocked on the door and his wife (second of four) Belinda let me in to “talk to the champ”. Up at his training site in Deer Lake I was able to sit across from him after a workout and that’s a story in its own what that conversation sounded like. I was there when the late great trainer Cus D’Amato was there. Word is John Madden’s son bought the property which is now a bed and breakfast the “Butterfly and the Bee”. Hopefully Madden will turn it into a museum for Ali. No matter what you thought of him before meeting him but he was one of the funniest people you could ever meet. Imagine him doing a “one man show!”

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