Earlier this month, heavyweight warrior from the 1970s and 1980s, Leroy Caldwell passed away in Las Vegas hospital. The news flew completely under the radar, with only The Sweet Science putting out a tribute to the man who fought them all in going 27-31-6(6).
Caldwell, who deserves to be remembered, often took short notice fights and as his numbers show, he was no stranger to defeat. But Caldwell was always game, he had limitless courage and he had both a good chin and fine defensive abilities.
Take a look at the fighters who managed to halt Caldwell: Terry Daniels, Cleveland Williams, Roy Wallace, Vernon McIntosh, George Foreman, Gregorio Peralta, Earnie Shavers, Lonnie Bennett, Oscar Bonavena, James Helwig, Pinklon Thomas and Gerrie Coetzee.
Three of these men were, at one time or another, heavyweight champion, while the others, with the exception of Wallace and McIntosh, were ranked contenders.
A while back, when still in fine health, Caldwell was kind enough to grant this writer an interview. I began by asking Leroy who hit him the hardest.
“Oh, I’m not even gonna hesitate on that one – It was Shavers, Earnie Shavers, no doubt about it,” Leroy said.
“He hit like he was carrying a damn shotgun! George Foreman I also fought, and he was great puncher too, as was Gerrie Coetzee, the South African guy; who I fought over there in Johannesburg. Also Ron Lyle and Cleveland Williams, they hit real hard too. But Shavers, he was different, it was like a shocking punch when he hit me.
“George Foreman, when he hit me, it was more of a “boom” type thing. But during this time, I learned a lot from Bob Foster. I trained with him in Albuquerque, at his gym – that was from 1971 to 1973. He taught me a lot. We sparred and he was a great puncher too. It seemed that everyone could punch but me. That’s how, and why, I learnt how to be more of a defensive fighter.”
It’s amazing how often Shavers’ name comes up whenever anyone – be it a fan, an expert, or a fellow fighter – starts talking about hardest punchers ever. The great Larry Holmes also says Shavers hit him the hardest; harder even than Mike Tyson. Randy “Tex” Cobb sings a similar tune, as does James “Quick” Tillis. While we all saw with our own eyes the damage Shavers inflicted on “The Greatest” himself, Muhammad Ali. And now Caldwell does not hesitate for a split second when being asked who hit him the hardest.
Shavers – who passed away last September- sure must have had some kind of unbelievable power; like that of a shotgun, according to Mr. Caldwell.
May Leroy rest in peace. He was a fighter.