By James Slater: How good was 1970’s heavyweight contender Earnie Shavers? How powerful was the man who was once dubbed “The Puncher of The Century?” How would Shavers, given the nickname “The Dark Destroyer,” have failed in “dream fights” with the likes of Tyson, Foreman, Haye, Liston and today’s masters, the Klitschkos?
Also, who are Earnie’s top-10 greatest fighters of all-time pound-for-pound? Interested to find out what Earnie himself has to say in answer to these questions? Then read on.
I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of calling up Earnie and speaking with him on a number of occasions, and the following are some of the questions I asked Earnie the last time we spoke.
James Slater: It’s always great to be able to speak with you, Earnie, a true heavyweight legend! Let’s start off by talking about the Klitschkos. They seem pretty much unbeatable today, but how would they have faired had they had to face you and the greats from your era?
Earnie Shavers: Well, I’ve seen a lot of their fights, and they’re okay. They’re nice guys too. But in my opinion, if they had been around in my day, you would not have even heard of them. Myself, I’d have worked inside, then attacked the body first, to bring the hands down, and then I’d have gone to the head. I’d have landed shots to the heart, a left hook to the kidney, and then shot a right hand to the head. Then you’d have heard ‘Timbeeerr!’ (laughs).
J.S: You feel you would have been big enough for them?
E.S: No doubt about it. Let me tell you something, I loved facing big, slow guys like that. I wouldn’t have had any problems with them. Forget height and weight, weight especially. Heavyweight is heavyweight – 210 is big enough. That’s the problem, I think: these guys get too big and are too big these days. 210 is the perfect weight [for a heavyweight]. I’d say 225 is the highest you can get and be effective.
J.S: Do you think the Klitschkos deserve to be rated as all-time greats? That’s what some people are saying right now, as it’s been so long since they lost, and they have dominated the division for so long now.
E.S: I don’t think so, no. They’re good fighters, but not in terms of all-time. They haven’t been in with top challengers. But it’s not their fault; there just aren’t any other good heavyweight around to push them. I was lucky, I fought in a golden era. Also, we had better trainers back then, and we had that better competition. You had so many great fighters all around at the same time back then, all facing each other. In fact, there were too many great fighters around at the same time. To my knowledge, it has never been like that before or since. Guys like Ali, Holmes, Foreman and myself, we’d have been too much for the Klitschkos.
J.S: You’re known as one of the hardest punchers in history, how would you have done against three other men who are known as awesome heavyweight hitters, in Tyson, Foreman and Liston?
E.S: Well, first of all, I wanted to fight Foreman bad! I got close to fighting him a couple of times, but it never happened. Anyway, I believe I would have KO’d all three. Foreman, he never wanted to fight me. Tyson, he would never have wanted any part of me. And Liston, I believe I would’ve knocked him out too, as he was too old and slow.
J.S: You feel the peak Tyson would have wanted no part of the peak you? Why is that?
E.S: Because of Cus [D’Amato] – he warned Tyson about hard hitters like myself. He [Cus] would never, ever have let him take such a fight.
J.S: Let’s throw David Haye’s name in there!
E.S: Oh, I’d have knocked him out, probably in two or three rounds. I hit way too hard for him. But I like David, he’s a friend of mine, and a good fighter.
J.S: Fans still talk about your withering power, and they wonder what your secret was. How did you manage to bang so hard, Earnie?
E.S: Well, with power, a lot of it is natural – you are just born with it like I was myself. But training is important. Chopping wood, lifting hay bales, things like that, that’s what today’s fighters should do – go back to old-school, natural methods of training. My trainer, Archie Moore, he told me to go away and chop trees for two weeks before a fight, and I did and it made all the difference in the world; all the difference to my life. I’d say doing things like that increases you punching power by at least 25-percent – forget lifting weights, that just makes you muscle-bound and takes away your speed. Go back to nature when you train.
J.S: Fascinating stuff, Earnie! Finally, can you list your top-10 greatest fighters of all time?
E.S: Wow, let me see. Off the top of my head I’d say: Sugar Ray Robinson, who was just a natural fighter. He was born to fight. Then Rocky Marciano, who was just unbeatable! Muhammad Ali, who was the fastest heavyweight ever, no doubt – and such a smart fighter. Then Roberto Duran, who was such a tough guy. Then I’d say Sugar Ray Leonard, who was almost as good as Robinson, and Tommy Hearns, who had brutal punching power! Then I’d have Floyd Mayweatherm and Manny Pacquiao together. I need to see them fight one another before I can say who is the best. Both are greats though. Then my old trainer, Archie Moore; he was so smart, and a dangerous puncher. He taught me a whole lot, especially on how to place punches. Let’s see; Henry Armstrong, he has to be in the list, he was ahead of his time. And finally Joe Louis, who was one of my heroes growing up. Joe was so much more than just a fighter.
J.S: Thanks so much for your time once again, Earnie.
E.S: Thank you, and say hello to all my fans in England.