Ali vs. Chuvalo - Tough Guy George Draws Up The Blueprint On How To Beat “The Greatest"

george chuvalo06.07.07 - By James Slater: Forty-one years ago this year, Canadian tough guy George Chuvalo met “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, for the heavyweight championship of the world in Toronto. Ali was making the third defence of the title he’d won two years earlier against Sonny Liston, while George, vastly experienced with a 34-11-2 record, was making his first attempt at boxing’s ultimate prize. What followed proved to be a quite revealing fight, especially in hindsight.

The bout was tried to be made in various other locals, before George’s home country of Canada finally gave the match a home. George, pushing thirty, was intent on making the most of his big chance.

The two had actually been set to meet years earlier. When still known as Cassius Clay, Ali had said he’d fight Chuvalo after George’s fight with Mike DeJohn, in September of 1963. But Chuvalo looked too dangerous, scoring two hurtful knockdowns over DeJohn on his way to a clear points win, and Ali changed his mind.

It was during George’s fight with DeJohn that Ali came up with the nickname of “The Washer Woman” for Chuvalo. Due to the way he had draped DeJohn over the top rope, and the manner in which George had resembled a cleaning woman attending to washing on the scrubbing board as he’d continued landing punches on his semi-horizontal target, Ali’s famous nickname was born. The young Clay said he was no longer interested in fighting such a boxer. Five months later, Cassius was the heavyweight king.

This left a bad taste in Chuvalo’s mouth. As did the seemingly pitiful way Liston lost his return with the man now known as Muhammad Ali. Campaigning relentlessly for a shot at Ali, George finally got what he wanted on March 29th 1966. He tried his best in the fight, too. Ali had matured as a fighter now, though, and was very, very strong - as Chuvalo found out when he pounded the champ’s body as hard as he could to no avail. Still, to many experts, looking back years later, the blueprint on how to beat Ali - the same one Joe Frazier would use five years later - had been drawn up by the teak-tough Canadian. Stay close to Ali, neglect to let him breathe, work his body and basically pound away at him whenever the chance presented itself, and you had a shot at beating him. Unfortunately for Chuvalo, he met the peak Ali, a man who could box for fifteen full rounds without getting anywhere near winded. His super-human speed in its effervescent glory too, the awesome champion was able to prevail against such roughhousing tactics.

George later remarked upon how Ali should be made to fight only with weights attached to his legs, such was his impossible speed. George saw the final bell, however, even though he’d only won a single round on two cards upon hearing it.

Ali had lots of respect for his challenger after the grueling fifteen rounder. He had certainly been pushed as never before in his reign as champion. As for George, he too felt admiration and respect for his opponent. And though he’d been beaten he let no-one down, least of all himself. The scores of the three judges, given using the five point must system, were 74-62, 74-63 and 73-65, all for Ali.

The “Greatest” would go on to prove to the world how he was this indeed. While Chuvalo, though he would meet Ali again in the 1970’s, had boxed his one and only world title fight (excluding his fight with the fragmented WBA’s champ, Ernie Terrell, of course). Without him, though, the game plan “Smokin’” Joe Frazier used in 1971’s fight of the century, might not have been so obvious a one to adopt. Indeed, the notion dawns that Philadelphia’s finest just might owe Mr. Chuvalo a certain debt of gratitude.

Article posted on 07.07.2007

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