What was it like to have been hit on the chin by heavyweight power-punchers George Foreman, Earnie Shavers, Cleveland Williams and Ron Lyle? There is one man who today can, in a quite unique perspective, be able to say what it was indeed like to have faced these monsters. His name is not overly familiar, but New Orleans heavyweight Leroy Caldwell, who fought as a pro in the 1960s,’70s and ’80s, quite literally ‘fought ’em all’ (Caldwell the only living man to have fought Foreman, Shavers and Williams).
Caldwell, 27-31-6(6) 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 – hence him being stopped just 12 times. Okay, 12 times may seem a lot, but look at who halted 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. But who hit Caldwell the hardest?
Very kindly taking time to answer this questions via social media, the 70 year old had a quick response:
“Oh, I’m not even gonna hesitate on that one – It was Shavers, Earnie Shavers, no doubt about it,” Leroy told this writer.
“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 sure must have had some kind of unbelievable power; like that of a shotgun, according to Mr. Caldwell.