What’s the Definition of Toughness and Courage? CHUVALO!
What’s the Definition of Toughness and Courage? CHUVALO!
By: Ken Hissner
How can you think of Canadian boxing without mentioning George Chuvalo? From 1956 through 1978 he had 93 fights without landing on the canvas once! That was after fighting the best fighters of his time with names like Floyd Patterson, Zora Folley, George Foreman, Jerry Quarry, Buster Mathis, Jimmy Ellis, Joe Frazier, Oscar Bonavena and world title fights with Ernie Terrell and Muhammad Ali!
Being from Toronto Chuvalo would turn professional there in April of 1956 and win his first five fights by knockout and jumping to an eight rounder defeating the former South African champion Johnny Arthur, 30-7 over the full eight rounds.
Chuvalo lost for the first time in his seventh fight by split decision against veteran Howard King, 31-10-5, in October of 1956 and would win the rematch in April of 1958 knocking out King in two rounds. Through his first sixteen fights he was 14-2 losing to Bob Baker, 47-11-1, over ten rounds. Right after the rematch with King he fought to a ten round draw with Alex Miteff, 15-1, of Argentina who had just defeated Cuban Nino Valdez in his previous fight.
After the Miteff fight Chuvalo won the vacant heavyweight title of Canada scoring a first round knockout over James J. Parker, 30-6-4. In his first defense he scored five knockdowns before stopping Yvon Durelle, 83-21-2, in the twelfth and final round by knockout. In his next fight he lost to Olympic Gold medalist Pete Rademacher, 7-3-1, in ten rounds and then lost his title to Bob Cleroux, 21-1-1, by split decision in 12. In the rematch in their next fight Chuvalo defeated Cleroux over 12 in getting his title back.
In a rematch with Miteff, Chuvalo won a split decision before losing rubber match with Cleroux by split decision. That followed with a DQ loss to Joe Erskine, 38-5-1, of Wales. He would score four straight knockouts and defeated big Mike DeJohn, 46-11-1, by majority decision. He had DeJohn down in this one. I remember watching his next fight on TV against tall and lanky Tony Alongi, 31-2, in Miami Beach in November of 1963, with Chuvalo losing by decision. In checking the score cards a mistake was found and it was changed to a draw.
Next out Chuvalo was matched with good boxer and contender Zora Folley, 65-75-3, losing over ten rounds. In his next fight he won the vacant Canadian title with a first round knockout over Hugh Mercier. Two fights later he would stop Doug Jones, 24-5-1, in the eleventh round of a scheduled twelve. He had Jones down in that round and was ahead on two of the three scorecards at the time of stoppage.
In Feburary of 1965 Chuvalo lost a twelve round decision to former world champion Floyd Patterson at MSG. After scoring knockouts in his next four fights he earned a world title fight with Ernie Terrell, 37-4, for the WBA title in November of 1965, losing over fifteen rounds in Toronto, Canada.
Just five weeks later Chuvalo defeated former British Empire champion Joe Bygraves, 42-26-2, in London, UK. He couldn’t get a fight with Henry Cooper for the British Empire title so he fought Argentina’s Eduardo Corletti, 11-2-5, and lost over ten rounds. He somehow in his next fight got a world title fight with Muhammad Ali, 22-0, in Toronto in March of 1966, losing over fifteen rounds. It was his second world title fight and would be his last.
Several fights later Chuvalo lost to Oscar Bonavena, 20-2, by majority decision at MSG. He would then win twelve straight by knockout before facing future world champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier, then 16-0, at Madison Square Garden in July of 1967. It would end up being the first of only two times Chuvalo was stopped in his career in the fourth round.
Chuvalo would be off for almost a year coming back to win the Canadian heavyweight title he hadn’t defended in four years defeating Jean-Claude Roy, over 12 rounds. Over his next twelve fights he would score eleven knockouts losing once to Buster Mathis, 28-1, over 12 rounds. Among the knockout victims were Mexico’s Manuel Ramos, 21-7-2, and Italy’s Dante Cane, 23-3-3, in back to back fights. His biggest win was knocking out Jerry Quarry, 33-3-4, in December of 1969. He added three more knockouts after that.
In August of 1970 Chuvalo would then face another unbeaten Olympian named “Big” George Foreman, 21-0, at MSG, and get stopped in three rounds. It was the second time he was stopped and the last time. Just eleven days later he traveled to Europe at the Kosevo Stadium, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovine knocking out American Mike Bruce. He would finish out 1970 with three more knockouts.
In May of 1971 Chuvalo would face former world champion Jimmy Ellis, 29-6, in Toronto, losing over ten rounds. In only his second fight in that year he came back six months later and defeated Cleveland Williams, 75-12-1, at the Astrodome, in Houston, TX. He scored a couple of knockouts including a Canadian title defense and was to meet Ali, 35-1, for a second time but this time for the NABF title in Vancouver, Canada, losing over twelve rounds. It would be the last time he lost as he defended his Canadian title stopping Tommy Burns in the first round. After three more knockout wins he retired in October of 1973 at the age of 36.
Like too many fighters he came back over three years later in March of 1977 again winning the vacant Canadian title with a ninth round knockout over Bob Felstein. He defended it nine months later scored a first round stoppage over Earl McLeay. It would be a year later when he would have his last fight stopping George Jerome in Toronto. His final record was 73-18-2 with 64 knockouts at the age of forty-one!