News July 2013

Earnie Shavers talks legendary career fighting Ali, Holmes and Norton


By Michael J Jones

Huge puncher: Shavers

Livefight recently had the chance to speak to heavyweight legend Earnie Shavers about his career. Now nearing his 68th birthday, the former big-punching contender is currently working on a business project in Las Vegas but took time out to discuss his days in the 70ís golden era of heavyweight boxing.

The Alabama puncher turned pro late aged 24-years-old after a brief amateur career and was soon scoring highlight-reel stoppages over decent fighters.

Shavers could be erratic on occasion but hung tough with some of the best big men of a special era. Earnie recorded knock-out victories over the likes of Jimmy Young, Jimmy Ellis, Ken Norton and Roy Williams among many others. Usually his massive right hand, thrown both straight and as an uppercut, would do the necessary damage as many fighters were left in a crumpled heap.

Earnie had to wait until he was 32-years-old before his big title chance came against world champion Muhammad Ali in 1977. The shaven-headed challenger gave more than a good account of himself before losing a competitive decision to the man considered the best heavyweight champion in history. Shavers even hurt Ali on several occasions but couldnít finish ďThe GreatestĒ off.

The aging veteran would lose a decision to a young Larry Holmes the year after before shocking Kenny Norton in just one round to earn a shot at the recently-crowned Holmesí WBC title.

Shavers would lose again but not before dropping Larry heavily in the seventh with a huge right-hand. Holmes would recover to win by stoppage in eleven rounds at Caesers Palace.

Earnie boxed on with mixed success until 1987, even making a brief ring-return in the mid 90ís as he chased a bout with comeback-king George Foreman. His final tally reads 74-14-1 (68) and many often insist the two-time world title challenger was the hardest punching heavyweight in history.

Hereís what the big-hitting legend had to say-

LF) Were you always a big puncher from when you first started boxing?

ES) Yes I was right from the very first day. I used to work on a farm see and every day Iíd be lifting these big bails of hay and working very hard so I think thatís where my punching power came from.

LF) You turned pro in 69í and won nearly all of your early fights by KO. One of your best early victories was by decision over former light-heavyweight champion Vincente Rondon?

ES) Yeah he was a good fighter and pretty tough but I won a ten-round decision in 72í.

LF) You followed that win up with a first-round knockout over former world champion Jimmy Ellis the year after?

ES) That was one of my first big tests on the 18th of June 1973 at Madison Square Garden. Archie Moore trained me for that one and he told me to throw a right uppercut which was the shot I ended it with.

LF) Were you surprised that Ellis, who wasnít really a puncher, came out so strong in the bout trying to hurt you?

ES) No he was a tough guy and had a lot of experience, he wasnít a puncher but he could hurt you in there.

LF) You were surprisingly halted the fight after in the same round by Jerry Quarry?

ES) Yes I had a few management issues going into that but (Quarry) paid for (the defeat) after.

LF) What do you mean by that?

ES) Kenny Norton beat him up badly and then I beat Kenny (chuckles).

Earnie shakes up Ali

LF) You had to wait a few more years to get your world title shot versus Muhammad Ali. You appeared to shake him a few times; did you feel you hurt him in there?

ES) Yes I felt I hurt him on three occasions; the second, thirteenth and fourteenth rounds but I let him off. I probably could have finished him off looking back but I canít undo that now Iím just happy I got out with my health intact.

LF) You lost a decision to Holmes a little while after that, then a year later upset Norton. Were you surprised you took him out so quickly after Norton had just gone fifteen hard rounds with Holmes?

ES) No I knew Iíd beat him early, I said all along itíd be the first round. I put the fear of God into him as I knew he didnít like punchers. I knew him see and I scared him before the fight.

LF) How did you scare him?

ES) I said ďKenny, Iím going to destroy you.Ē He couldnít look me in the eyes so I knew I had him.

LF) You received another title shot against old foe Larry Holmes as a result. Heíd beaten you by decision 18 months previously and looked on the way to doing the same again when you dropped him heavily in the seventh. Were you surprised he was able to get up from that knock-down?

ES) I was surprised because most guys never got up from those kind of shots, so Larry surprised me a lot in that fight. After (scoring the knock-down) I burnt myself out trying to finish him and he ended up stopping me.

Shavers came close to stopping Holmes

LF) You boxed on for several more years with mixed success, do you regret carrying on as long as you did through the 80ís?

ES) When youíre a big puncher you can carry on as long as you want.

LF) You even came back in 95í for a couple of fights?

ES) Yes I was 51-years-old and came back to fight George Foreman but he didnít want to fight me. I did pretty good though (winning one and losing another).

LF) What do you think would have happened had you and George fought in the 70ís?

ES) Well George never wanted to fight me and one day he revealed Archie Moore had told him to avoid me. Archie trained us both and he told George ďdonít fight Earnie he hits too hard and fast for you.Ē

I think I would have punched too hard for George.

LF) I know many compare past fighters to the modern day versions but do you think any of the active heavyweights now could have competed in the 70ís?

ES) I donít watch boxing anymore so I donít know. Iíve seen the Klitschko brothers fight; I wish I could have fought someone like that when I was still fightingÖ

LF) Everyone knows the 70ís heavyweight division as the golden era of the big men; how does it feel to be a part of that epic boxing history?

ES) Itís great, fighting in that era changed my whole life and enabled me to look after my family.

LF) Can you tell me anything about the current project youíre working on?

ES) This is the best project Iíve ever been involved in and Iím going to be making more money than when I was fighting. Itís going to involve advertising on the TV all over the world and thatís all I can say right now. Iím travelling to sort some things out now and Iím hoping in three months things will start to take shape.

LF) Finally, people sometimes call you the hardest puncher in boxing history; do you consider yourself that?

ES) Yes I was.

LF) Mr Shavers thank you itís been a privilege.

ES) Thank you and have a nice day now.

Please follow me on Twitter @MikeUndisputed

Earnie drops a prime Holmes-

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