Muhammad Ali’s Toughest Opponent 

Boxing legend, George Chuvalo, had two gruelling fights with Muhammad Ali. Chuvalo shares his story in this exclusive interview with The Weekly Wanderer.

BY PHILL FELTHAM

Recently, the world lost boxing legend, Muhammad Ali. The boxer had many gruelling fights during his long career. One of his most notorious opponents was fellow boxer George Chuvalo.

Chuvalo, 78, had two gruelling fights with Ali. The boxers first locked horns in 1966, and then again in 1972. The Canadian fighter was considered the underdog, however, Chuvalo proved his naysayers wrong. He went toe to toe with Ali in two bloody brawls. Ali won each bout only by decision–not knockout.

After the first fight, Muhammad Ali went on record to say that Chuvalo was the toughest opponent that he had ever fought. Later in life, the two boxers became good friends. In fact, Chuvalo was appointed an honorary pallbearer at Muhammad Ali’s funeral.

In 1996, I had the opportunity to speak with Chuvalo about his boxing career, his gruelling bouts with Muhammad Ali, and his strategy with opponents in the ring. Here’s the transcript of that interview.

PPF: Would you mind telling me a little bit about your boxing career?

CHUVALO: I was a Canadian champion for more than three years back in 1979. I was in the top ten for about 17 years. I also fought Muhammad Ali twice, and in both fights, he never knocked me down. I’m an old guy now, but I can still whack ’em.

PPF: He never knocked you down at all. Can you describe what you felt at the time of each fight?

CHUVALO: Well, I can tell you about the fights. See, people make a big deal saying, “Hey, you went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali; you must be pretty beat up.” After the fight, I went dancing, while he went to St. Michael’s Hospital (located in downtown Toronto) for kidney damage and a bad shoulder. People say I went 15 rounds. I got news for you, if we went a couple more rounds, his career would have been over. If it was a 20-round fight, he would not have made it to the hospital, that’s the way I see it. He was bleeding so much that he would not have made it to the ambulance.

PPF: In your boxing career, would you classify yourself as an agressive boxer with a loose-cannon-type attitude or someone who is calm and collected, who goes into a fight to defeat the opponent with a strategy?

CHUVALO: I walked into a match always taking the chance. I was a walk-in-type of puncher. I was a tall guy; I’m 6’1, but that was not considered tall. I was as tall as far as my opponent was concerned. If I had a problem feeling a guy out, I would stay near the ropes. If it was a lightweight, I would go in there and crack his head open.

PPF: I would like to thank you for the chance to speak with you today.

CHUVALO: Nice talking with you. iT!

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