Yesteryear Fights
Great interview about sparring with Mike Tyson:
Ten years ago today: Wladimir Klitschko batters Lamon Brewster in the only revenge win of his entire career (so far?)

James Slater - July 7, 2017 7 Comments

Ten years ago this very day, July 7, 2007, in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko avenged the most brutal yet at the same time strange and unsettling pro defeat of his career. A decade ago today, Klitschko, then the IBF heavyweight belt-holder, forced Lamon Brewster to remain on his stool after a dozen one-sided sessions.

Avenging his shocking April 2004 TKO loss to “Relentless,” Klitschko exorcised some serious demons. The first Brewster fight really was an odd one. Klitschko unloaded everything on Brewster in the early going of the fight held in Las Vegas, blasting Brewster’s rock of a chin with all manner of hard shots. Somehow, Brewster held on, and then, in quite stunning fashion, Wladimir collapsed from sheer exhaustion, his legs, his punch resistance, his everything – totally gone!

There were strange tales of how Klitschko had allegedly been drugged, how his legs had too much Vaseline plastered on them (!) and all manner of other things were attributed to the loss that almost convinced “broken man” Klitschko to retire. To this day, the rumours persist. But instead of calling it a career, the 28 year old regrouped and began an unbeaten run of almost 12 long years.

It’s interesting that the Brewster loss is the only defeat Klitschko either avenged or even tried to avenge. His earlier losses; inside the distance setbacks against Ross Puritty and Corrie Sanders (a quick, 2nd-round blowout) remain unavenged, as does the 2015 loss Wladimir suffered at the hands of Tyson Fury. Maybe the loss to Brewster really bothered Klitschko bad, to the extent that he simply HAD to get his own back?

There could, however, be another loss Klitschko avenges, or at least tries to avenge, soon. Will Klitschko come back and fight Anthony Joshua for a second time? If he does, will “Dr. Steel Hammer” give AJ the Brewster treatment as he brutally wipes away his April 2017 loss?

Klitschko has shown that he can learn from either a bad showing or a loss: see the Brewster return and Klitschko’s second, dominant fight with Sam Peter, a fighter who gave him hell the first time around.

Can Klitschko, at age 41, avenge the second most punishing loss of his career? Joshua, and the rest of us, wait and see.
Earnie Shavers: The man who finished “The Greatest”

James Slater - September 30, 2017 1 Comment

Called by many the hardest heavyweight puncher in history, Earnie Shavers made his pro debut in November 1969, with a second round KO over one Silas Johnson. Johnson became the first of a number of fighters to be knocked flat or stopped, that number would eventually total 67.

Shavers didn’t waste any time following up his first victory – he fought another two times in the same week in November. However, the third of these fights was his first loss, a points defeat over six rounds to a guy named Stan Johnson. Refusing to be discouraged, Shavers reeled off ten straight KOs after this setback. Then came a loss that would reveal one of the weaknesses that this huge puncher would have throughout his career- a suspect chin. Earnie was stopped for the first time against Ron Stander in round five. It would be three more years before Earnie lost again and despite the loss to Stander, he was about to enjoy a very successful roll.

In 1973, Earnie, by now a rising contender, scored a KO win that in hindsight was far more impressive than initially thought. He knocked out the incredibly crafty Jimmy Young – the first man to do so, and one of only two men ever to stop Jimmy (Gerry Cooney being the other). This was a superb win and one indicative of just how dangerous Earnie was in the ring. He followed this up with arguably his finest ever victory. He crushed former champ Jimmy Ellis in the very first round. Earnie looked very shaky himself before dropping Ellis for the count, but claimed later he was simply faking so as to draw Ellis in. It worked and Shavers became a serious threat to reigning champion George Foreman. What a pity these two would never meet. What a slugfest that fight would have been.

Unfortunately, Earnie lost some momentum after his great win over Ellis. He was stopped again in one round by Jerry Quarry. Once again his weakness was exposed. Earnie may have been a lethal puncher, but his chin left a lot to be desired. If an opponent could get past the early rounds this, as well as Earnie’s suspect stamina, gave them a chance for victory. Shaver’s high ranking dipped somewhat due to the humbling loss to Quarry.

He was far from finished though. After his loss to Quarry, he scored a first round win the following year over Roy Wallis and then, after a points defeat to Bob Stallings, he gave Jimmy Young a return bout. Young had evidently learned a fair amount since his loss to Shavers and this time he knew enough to fight to a draw, showing the cagey skills that would one day allow him to go the full fifteen with Ali. Earnie’s career carried on in its up and down phase the following year when he fought the huge Ron Lyle.

He had Lyle down in the second round, but couldn’t keep him there. Lyle, showing some of the same grit that would be on display in his incredible brawl with George Foreman four months later, hung in there long enough for Earnie to tire, stopping him in the sixth round of an entertaining fight. At this point it was clear to all that while Shavers’ power was something to behold, he was far from unbeatable. However, he was by now a genuine crowd pleaser. His kill or be killed style thrilled the fans. And his most famous and memorable fights were still to take place!

In 1977, Shavers scored five victories after the wild affair with Ron Lyle, and was given his first shot at the title. He was to face the incomparable Muhammad Ali. By this stage in his career however, Ali was showing some serious wear and tear. Looking back, it really was a crazy move for the aging Ali to sign to defend against the murderous punching Shavers. The fight didn’t turn out quite like most thought it would beforehand, however.

From somewhere, Earnie found the stamina to fight for fifteen long rounds and equally impressively, Ali was able to go to the well one more time to pull out a gruelling points win. Ali really had to take some bombs though. He was badly hurt on a number of occasions and only his legendary chin allowed him to survive. At the end it was mighty close, but the judges sided unanimously with The Greatest. Ali lovingly dubbed Shavers “The Acorn” in the build-up to the fight because of Earnie’s shaved dome and to this day the nickname has stuck. Ali would only manage one more win after his war with “The Acorn,” his return bout with Leon Spinks.

After the confidence boost of proving he could go the full fifteen rounds, as well as giving the best heavyweight in history such a hard fight, Earnie entered the year 1978 feeling good. He fought fellow contender Larry Holmes, in an eliminator for the WBC title, and was as determined as ever to be champion. But Larry knew too much for him and won a wide points verdict. These two would meet again though.

At this time, Ken Norton was felt by many to be one of the best big men in the world. He had lost a razor thin decision to Ali in 1976 and also gave Larry Holmes a gruelling distance fight – in a bout that contested the WBC title – in June of 1978. Norton was no match for Shavers, however. In their fight in March of 1979, Earnie scored another great win – destroying Norton in a single round. This superb win earned Earnie a second crack at Holmes- who was now WBC king. And this time he did a bit better.

He cracked Holmes with a huge right in the seventh and Holmes went down in a manner that would have signaled certain defeat for many a fighter. Larry wasn’t simply put on the canvas, he was almost sent right through it! How he got up and survived, no one, least of all Shavers, will ever know. Earnie’s chance at winning had passed as Larry regained the initiative and stopped him on cuts in round eleven. Shaver’s days as a top contender were over.

He carried on until 1987, winning a few and losing a few – to men like Randall “Tex” Cobb- a loss, Joe Bugner- a win and James “Quick” Tillis- a loss. He retired in the summer of ‘87 after a win over Larry Simms, only to make a shocking return to the ring in 1995! Aged 50, Earnie managed a win over a guy named Brian Morgan, but was then was stopped in two rounds by somebody called Brian Yates.

Shavers’ final pro record reads – 72 wins, 13 defeats, 1 draw – with 67 KOs.
Jimmy Young Vs. George Foreman: The fight that ended Foreman’s career but ultimately brought about his rebirth

James Slater - October 9, 2017 0 Comments

Upon entering the ring in the Coliseo Roberto Clemente stadium in Puerto Rico just over 40 years ago, former heavyweight king George Foreman had Muhammad Ali on his mind; in particular he had thoughts of a rematch with the man who had shocked, stunned and beaten him three years earlier playing on his mind.

But at the conclusion of his frustrating fight with Jimmy Young, Foreman would soon have nothing but God and a new life on his mind. It was “Big George’s” fight with Young – won by Young via 12 round unanimous decision – that forever changed the Texan giant’s life; or rather it was the fight’s aftermath that did the changing.

Foreman, who was 5-0(5) since Zaire, would experience major flashbacks against the tricky, clever and cute Young; being taken back to that exhausting, embarrassing night (or early morning) in the middle of Africa. Like Zaire, San Juan was sweltering. Like Ali, Young was elusive and hard to nail cleanly. As in the fight that saw him lose his crown and unbeaten record, fans at the Young fight forced Foreman to listen to cheers for his opponent.

Foreman, aged 28 and still in his prime, did manage to hurt Young in the fight, badly. A heavy left hand shook Young in the 7th, but somehow, Jimmy got through the round (after the fight, the Philly boxer would say he himself had no idea how he got through the session, so out on his feet he really had been). Foreman, who had been guilty of his share of rough tactics, really saw frustration kick in in the fight’s late rounds. And fatigue kicked in in a major way also.

Young, a year the older man and three wins removed from his own loss to Ali (Young dropping a hugely controversial 15 round decision to Ali in April of 1976; a fight that saw an overweight Ali look anything but The Greatest) was 20-5-2 overall and he had beaten big punchers before. Against Foreman, the 7th-round crisis survived, Young was winning the biggest fight of his career.

Jimmy was no big puncher, yet he managed to punctuate his brave and skilled performance with a final round knockdown, when an exhausted Foreman went down from a right with just seconds to go in the bout. Foreman was not hurt but he was seriously running on empty, had been since the 8th or 9th. Then came the decision – all three judges favouring Young’s slippery boxing and points-picking; one official having it a wide 118-111 for Jimmy.

Foreman, brooding and beaten, refused Howard Cosell a mid-ring interview, instead heading back to his hot and sticky dressing room. Once inside, George “died and became alive again.” Some put the events down to heat prostration, but Foreman knows what HE saw and felt. Foreman has vividly described the life-changing religious experience many times and what happened later is clear: George instantly retired from boxing, he walked away from $millions, and he became a preacher.

The old George Foreman was gone, the new George Foreman, smiling, spreading the word of God and never again balling up his fist, had begun his new life.

Of course, Foreman did return to boxing, in 1987, at the age of 38, and it’s a good thing – a great thing – that he did. Foreman’s astonishing comeback enriched all our lives. Who knows what would have happened if Foreman had scored the easy KO he doubtless felt he would have against Young 40 long years ago. Would the world have been deprived of the new Foreman? Would George have remained active and would he have got his rematch with Ali?

Today, George would have it no other way. He says now that he experienced the greatest moment of his life inside that San Juan dressing room. Very often, boxing fans have wondered this: how different heavyweight boxing history might be if Foreman had wiped Young out in a round or two?
Great stories these guys.
I never really read books - I hated them. I can't stand science fiction or fantasy novels etc.
I come from a rugby mad family and we brought every rugby biography going from 'I George Nepia' and Colin Meads etc
While some rugby players stories like those above make good reading the rest are seriously bland.
My wife asked me once would I like Dan carters book for Christmas ... I said he is a brilliant player but that would be a boring read... same answer to her Richie book question.
About 10 years ago I found the book Night Train- the Sonny Liston story in a bargain bookstore in Ireland.... I was hooked. The life of a boxer (Not todays athlete programmed type) was enthralling ... all came from abject poverty - racial prejudice beyond our belief - dodgy promoters (Don King) the Mob, Woman and drugs.
I have George Foremans , about 4 on Ali ( Including Ghosts of manila) Evanders, Tysons and all have that common theme of hardship - well actually bizarrely Ali probably experienced the least hardship in his early years apart from his bike being stolen.
I love the stories these guys have - (the Cinderella man in the depression) and how they overcome the odds to be true champions of their sport (a brutal sport) and in some cases life... other cases unfortunately end in tragedy but they probably would accept as inevitable (Liston).
Yeah, they're great stories to read.  Every month or two, I get one of these stories on Eastside, and I'll post them.  Just saw on TV the other night how Ali saved a guy ready to jump off a tall building.  Was after he lost to Holmes.  True story, but the actor who played Ali wasn't very good.  Some great lines from Ali though.
Riddick Bowe, aka Big Daddy:

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