Remembering Bob Cleroux - Heavyweight Contender From The Sixties

11.08.07 - By Paul McCreath: If one was to look back at the better heavyweights to come out of Canada in the last 50 years the first name that would come to mind would be George Chuvalo. George was one of the toughest battlers to ever enter the ring. While a bit short on technical skills, George could take a punch like no other.

In 93 pro bouts against the likes of Muhammad Ali(twice), George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Ernie Terrell and Alex Miteff (twice), he was never knocked off his feet. Would you believe that at the same time that George was at his peak, there was another Canadian world contender who actually beat Chuvalo two times out of three in rugged 12 rounders with the Canadian title at stake? We are talking about the almost forgotten Bob Cleroux.

Bob was a French Canadian from Montreal. Born in 1938, he turned pro while still a young lad in 1957. He faced the usual suspects in his early career, fighting around the Province of Quebec. His only minor setback was to the slick Eddie Vick, a 6-round draw in June of 1958. Three weeks later Bob set the record strait by winning an 8 rounder over the same Vick.

Cleroux's first attempt at stepping up came in a semi-final 8-rounder at Madison Square Garden in New York in May of 1959. He dropped the decision to the Texas veteran Buddy Turman who arrived with a 30-5 record. It didn't take long for Bob to return to the victory column. He came back to New York in February of the next year to outpoint the German contender Willi Besmanoff. Willi had fought nearly every top heavy and upset a few of them. His previous two bouts had been losses to top rated Sonny Liston and Eddie Machen.

1960 proved to be a good year for Cleroux. In July, he returned to Montreal to stop top 10 rated Roy Harris in five rounds. Roy was 30-2 at the time with his only losses being a title bout with Floyd Patterson and a later KO by Sonny Liston. The very next month, Bob stepped up for his first battle with Chuvalo for the Canadian title. In front of a large crowd at The Forum, the home of the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL, Cleroux, now 21-1-1, won a split decision in 12 rounds over the rated Chuvalo to become the Canadian champ.

In October, Bob gained revenge for his earlier loss to Buddy Turman with a 2nd round stoppage, this time in Montreal. The following month he was back in with Chuvalo in a rematch, again at the Forum. This time George took the honors with a unanimous decision.

The loss of his title did not deter Cleroux for long. In May of 1961, he stopped Roy Harris again in five rounds, then followed up the next month with a 7th round win over veteran contender Alex Miteff. Previously, Miteff had held Chuvalo to a 10-round split decision in March of that year. He was beginning to slip but was still no easy foe.

In August came the third and final bout with Chuvalo,once more at The Forum.This time Bob regained his Canadian crown with a 12 round decision. He was now in contention for a world title shot and he ventured to San Francisco in April of 1962 to meet the top ranked Zora Folley in a bout he hoped would lead to a chance at the champion Floyd Patterson.Folley along with Eddie Machen had been the leading contenders for some time but had been avoided by Patterson while he defended against easier foes like Pete Rademacher,Roy Harris,and Brian London.Unfortunately,Folley won the 10 rounder and Bob's title hopes went down the drain.After one easy tune-up bout he lost his next fight in Miami Beach to another top 10 fighter,big Mike DeJohn,again over 10 rounds.DeJohn had lost his last 3 bouts,but they were against Machen twice and Folley.He was still a top fighter.

The DeJohn defeat set Cleroux back some, so he returned to Quebec and regrouped by winning seven in a row over keep busy type opposition. The only name on this list of victims was former contender Tom McNeely, who was only slightly better than his son Peter turned out to be later. Bob took a 10-round decision at The Garden in Boston.

Now it was time to try the big time again but another 10 round loss to Zora Folley told Cleroux it was time to pack it in.The retirement lasted about 5 years and then in July of 1968 Bob began a comeback campaign.He won 9 strait over the usual trial horses except for one 10 round victory in July of that year over Cleveland "Big Cat" Williams who was still a formidable opponent for any of the top men.The next year,again in July the end came unexpectedly.Matched with Billy Joiner who brought an ordinary 9-5 record into the bout,Bob dropped the 10 round decision and retired for good.

Cleroux left behind a fine record of 48-6-1 with 38 KOs. In spite of meeting most of the top dogs of his time, he was never stopped. At 6 foot 2 and around 205 pounds at his peak, he was a big man for those years and a real handful for any of the top fighters. He was more of a puncher than a slick boxer and it was usually the smart technical boxers who gave him the most trouble. It is hard to believe that such a good fighter has been so forgotten today.

Article posted on 12.08.2007

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