Dubbed “The Puncher of the Century,” and with good reason, Earnie Shavers turns 77 today. The man born in Garland, Alabama is one of the last few remaining survivors of that golden age for the heavyweight division: the 1970s, when there were so many great fighters all rivaling each other, when they’re so many great fights taking place when fight fans the world over were spoiled and never realised it.
Shavers, like the rest of the ’70’s heavyweights, chased main man Muhammad Ali. Shavers got a shot at Ali, and, boy, how hard did “The Acorn” push the great man! Only Ali’s almost supernatural chin saved him in the September 1977 war that went all 15 rounds. Shavers lost a close decision, and he also lost his second and final shot at the world title. Facing Ali’s successor, Larry Holmes in September of 1979 (in a rematch of a non-title fight, a decision loss for Earnie), Shavers put Holmes down HARD in round seven, with only Holmes’ almost supernatural recuperative powers allowing him to rise from what must have been a very dark room.
Shavers was stopped on his feet in round 11. To this day, Earnie says Holmes thumbed him in the eye; either intentionally or unintentionally. Shavers would never be a world champion, but he sure made his mark on the sport, on the division. Fans still talk in awe about Shavers and his withering, frightening punching power. Almost every big name who faced Shavers that you care to mention utter Shavers’ name when asked who was the hardest hitter they ever faced:
Ali said it often, as does Holmes, while guys like Ken Norton, “when was the fight!” Ron Lyle, “it was like a shotgun blast,” Randy “Tex” Cobb, “no-one hit harder than Shavers – if anyone hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot him,” and James “Quick” Tillis, “Shavers hit so hard he could turn horse piss into gasoline,” described in their own way how lethal a banger Shavers really was.
One of the best to never become world champion, Shavers is nevertheless revered like a champ. His power was in a league of its own, truly. And Earnie is still here today, he’s still in good health, he can recall all his big night and he can tell you about them in a clear voice. Shavers’ final ring record reads an astonishing, 74-14-1 with, get this, 68 KO’s.
Here Shavers recalls some of his big fights:
“The toughest guy I ever fought was Roy “Tiger” Williams, no doubt about it,” Shavers said. “He was a big guy, a real strong guy. Matter of fact, I was afraid of him! He just kept coming and coming. I had to fight so hard just to keep him from overwhelming me. I finally managed to knock him out in the tenth round, in the final ten seconds, after he has almost knocked me out.”
“My best win was when I KO’d Jimmy Ellis in New York. That first-round win opened things up for me at the top level. He was a big name, a former world champion, and I beat him with ease. My uppercut took him out.”
“My worst loss, that has to be the Larry Holmes fight, the second fight, for the title. For some reason, I just couldn’t get going properly that night. Larry got me with a thumb in the eye, I think in round-six, and that tore my retina. I knocked him down in the seventh but he got back up and I couldn’t finish him off. Larry had the great old-school boxing trainers and they taught him plenty of tricks of the trade.”