After his 1966 tussle with the champ, Ali went on record to say that Chuvalo was his toughest opponent.
Georges St. Pierre, Steve Molitor and Georges Laraque are Canadian champions of their respective sports. These household names owe much of their success and popularity to television and the media who are always looking for that great Canadian story. Despite the odds, the person is able to wave the red and white flag proudly, representing this great nation in the only way they know how: through hard work and dedication, while embodying the Canadian spirit. George Chuvalo may not have the same allure of today’s crop of great Canadian fighters but he was the quintessential fighter that Canadians of all generations can look up to.
George Chuvalo was one of the best boxers of his generation but his popularity has diminished overtime because young Canadians do not appreciate the history of boxing, unless Muhammad Ali is mentioned of course. Chuvalo grew up in Toronto’s Junction area, where a young man would pick up a boxing magazine and decide to pursue a dream. Toronto is a place that you’d expect to see the next great hockey player, not a heavyweight boxing champion. Chuvalo, who established popularity early in his fighting career, would fight the most relevant of fighters of his era. From Floyd Patterson (1965 fight of the year) to Ernie Terrell and even Muhammad Ali twice. George, despite the odds, represented himself and Canada wonderfully even though the results on the scorecard showed otherwise. His passion, hard-work and unbreakable jaw lead him to a career record of 73-18-2, including sixty-four knockouts, all of this while never having his back touch the floor of the ring. The stout canuck gained mass popularity because he represented the true essences of Canada: a blue-collar work-ethic, modesty and toughness. In an era where people held a microphone to fighter’s mouths, waiting for the next piece of journalistic gold, the kid from Dundas Street did all of his talking in the ring.
After his 1966 tussle with the champ, Ali went on record to say that Chuvalo was his toughest opponent. No one gave George any chance of standing with Ali, let alone winning the fight. The reporters from established American newspapers like the New York Times were all eating their words after the scrappy Canadian went the distance. “Some of us had said this Canadian should have been selling peanuts in the aisles rather than throwing punches in the ring. We were wrong. ” He may have lost the fight, but Chuvalo won something just as important, respect.
George Chuvalo retired in 1979. His career was full of ups and downs. He evolved from the label of a “punching bag,” to going the distance with the greatest ever. George will always be remembered as a proud fighter who never took a step backward. His face should be on the Mount Rushmore of great Canadian fighters. I am proud that I learned about George Chuvalo’s story because, like him, we are all trying to be the best at our profession. In a sport dominated by Americans, Chuvalo reminded the boxing world that Canada’s best can go toe to toe with anyone. Canada’s greatest boxer may not have won the championship but he was pound for pound one of the toughest men to ever lace them up. No scorecard could ever take that away from him.
Written for CAVE by Michael Skryzniak