Exclusive Interview With Earnie Shavers - "Today's Heavyweights Aren't As Dedicated"

ernie shaversby James Slater - Right now, as we speak, two heavyweight legends are enjoying each other's company, as they reunite in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For former rivals James Tillis and Earnie Shavers are at the Tillis household, there to celebrate the lifetime achievement award James is to soon be given by the catBox group.

Shavers, who lost a decision to "Quick" in 1982, was kind enough to come to the phone from James' house earlier today, to give me the following interview.

Here is what the man who shared the ring with, amongst others, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Joe Bugner, Ken Norton, Jimmy Young and Jimmy Ellis had to say:

James Slater: Wow, it's a surprise pleasure to speak with you, Earnie! You are at James Tillis' house now, to see him receive an award?

Earnie Shavers: Yes, I'm a James' house here in Oklahoma now. He deserves that award (from the catBox Group) that was one great fight we had in Vegas in '82..

J.S: I saw it recently. You had him down with a sledgehammer right hand later in the fight! That was some punch!

E.S: Yeah, I think that made him mad though (laughs). James was a very good fighter and that was a great fight also. I knew when I'd lost, and I thought, 'well, it's his time now.'

J.S: Aside from James Tillis fight, you also fought just about everybody in the heavyweight division in the '70s and 80's. We've just watched the "Facing Ali" movie/documentary, which you are in. Where was your segment filmed, Earnie?

E.S: Oh, that was filmed in the UK (where Earnie now lives). That was done about two years ago. I enjoyed talking about the Ali fight.

J.S: I hope they paid you!

E.S: Oh yeah, they paid me (laughs). They filmed me for a few days.

J.S: You had Ali on queer street early in that fight you had with him in 1977 - in the 2nd round I think it was. Did you know he was really hurt?

E.S: Yeah, but he was clever - he got away (laughs). They were all great fights in those days, not jut with Ali. We had [Larry] Holmes back then, Tillis, myself and all those great fighters who were willing to face each other - not like it is today.

J.S: You don't think much of today's heavyweights?

E.S: They're not as dedicated, and it's a shame. I think the fans are getting cheated today. It's not like it was in our day, when there were so many good guys.

J.S: I know you tried a comeback in the mid-1990s - was that because you thought no-one would be able to take your power?

E.S: Yes, I tried a couple of fights in the mid-1990s. I thought there'd be nobody who could stand up to my power. I gave it a shot (Earnie had two fights, winning one and losing another; finally retiring for good in November of '95)

J.S: You had a great career, even though you never became champ - do you have anything you would do differently if you could go back and do it again?

E.S: Yeah, there's a few things actually (laughs). The [second] Larry Holmes fight, when I had him hurt (and down in the 7th-round) , I'd have not wasted as many punches, I'd not have got as excited as I did trying to finish him. I wouldn't have wasted my punches and worn myself out like I did.

J.S: You sound in good shape Earnie, you sound okay. Do you still train though?

E.S: I try to, but it's hard with me being on the road so much. I used to train two to four times a week a while back, and I will try and get back into that when I get back to the UK. I love travelling, though - like now, at James Tillis' house. It's his weekend and he deserves his award. I was talking to some press from the UK recently, and we plan to do some more tours there soon. I get calls all the time, asking me to do this and that, and I'm grateful. Boxing has been good to me and I understand I was from a golden era.

J.S: Well, it's been a pleasure speaking with you, Earnie. The "Facing Ali" film is great and you and Henry Cooper have a lot of interesting things to say in it. Have you seen it yet? I know you star in it!

E.S: No, I haven't seen it yet actually. They said they'd send me a copy soon.

J.S: I'm sure you'll enjoy it, Champ. And enjoy your weekend with the Tillis family. It's been great speaking with you.

E.S: Okay, thank you. And to all my fans in England, I'd like to say hello and thank you, too.

Article posted on 05.02.2010

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