The only one I didn’t want to punch me? Was that– son of a preacher– man!!!

17 Jan


Good Morning,

and a happy New Year to one and all!

The other day I awoke to the announcement that the search was on for up to 15,000 volunteers to assist with the 2014 Commonwealth Games which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. I add the  “Scotland” bit because there are places called Glasgow elsewhere on the planet– although some of them are outwith the Commonwealth of Nations.

15,000 volunteers. That will be official volunteers of course.

However, make no mistake there will be others who have no direct or official connection with the Commonwealth Games or Glasgow City Council who will be on the look out for volunteers or guests for the 2014 games.

Take for instance The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI)! This is a fellowship of lay businessmen whose main purpose is to bring interest to the Christian gospel. Theologically, the organisation has its roots in Pentecostalism and from what little research I have conducted it seems to me that the Fellowship suggests that its members aim to be amongst the happiest people on the planet whilst at the same time spreading the word of the Christian gospels.

Now I have never been to one of their meetings and don’t even know if they have a chapter in Glasgow, but what I do know is that the fellowship has branches throughout the world and is a thriving organisation. Furthermore, I have to confess that any organisation who apparently strives to spread the idea of being permanently “happy” folk seems ok to me.

However, what drew my attention was the fact that the last time that the Commonwealth Games came to the UK ( Manchester 2002 ) the fellowship decided to hold  a large convention in the city and sought volunteer or visiting preachers to attend their meetings and address the faithful.

And what a selection of people they had to choose from?

Among the candidates there was the head of nightclub and bar security in Liverpool– an American Pentecostal Preacher from Alabama— A professional wrestling referee— A charity worker from Walsall who was also a Patron of the Sharon Bradshaw Trust ( a children’s charity based in Warrington, which helps children with life threatening conditions, and their families ) amongst others.

It was quite a list, but in truth the fellowship’s decision was easy because all of the above eventually addressed their meeting— because all of the above came in the form of just one man!!

Oh and I forgot to add that the same man has been voted by many as the hardest hitting heavyweight puncher of all time– and here you must imagine Ali’s wide eyed stare and his exaggerated voice when I repeat—- OF AAAALLLLLLL TIME!!!!!

In fact in any poll of hardest hitters that I can find the lowest he has ever been ranked is at number 10!

Yet in 2002 he was the chosen guest preacher to the Fellowship— whose mantra is the gospel, the Christian way of life — and yes — being —- HAPPY!

Now in case some of you are jumping the gun and thinking that the identity of this holy man must be George Foreman— think again!

In fact George– who is truly one of the most smiley & happiest people on earth these days — was asked live on air by David Letterman who had hit him hardest in the course of his boxing career?

Sporting a black eye and a huge grin, George didn’t hesitate with his answer”

” Gerry Cooney!” Proclaimed George who  then goes on to list a series of hard hitters including Cleveland “The Big Cat” Willaims, Ron Lyle and others — but Gerry Cooney came out top with George explaining that when Cooney hit you your whole body vibrated even if you blocked the shot!

Now George is the size of a New York Block — he is huge — wide as a mountain — so when he says a guy hits hard then take it as gospel that the guy hits hard — really hard!

But Cooney is not our mystery preacher either! No — in the course of the same interview, Lettermen throws in the name of our holy man and asks George about how hard he hits?

Big George is once again unequivocal with the answer

” Oh! — I never fought HIM!! —– Thank Goodness!!”

In the same interview, Foreman states that Cooney hit far harder than Frazier. Like George, Smoking Joe wanted no part of the preacher, and Joe’s manager — the great Eddie Futch — made sure that Joe would never get in the ring with our puncher.

However, Mohammed Ali, Larry Holmes, Jimmy Ellis, Ron Lyle, Jimmy Young, Ken Norton, Randall ” Tex ” Cobb, Joe Bugner, Terrel Williams, and numerous others are all unanimous in answering the same question that was put to George Foreman:

” Who was the hardest puncher you ever faced?”

All have the same answer.

SHAVERS!! Earnie Shavers!!!

Shavers and Bugner

Earnie Dee Shavers was born in Garland Alabama on 31st August 1945. He would eventually have to leave Alabama at the “request” of the Ku Klux Klan with the rest of his family when his father got into a dispute over the price of a mule.

Earnie pitched up in Warren Ohio and was working away as a manual worker when he decided to take up boxing at the ripe old age of 22!

Now Earnie was not a great boxer, his stamina was always suspect, his chin was not the strongest, at 6ft he was not the biggest and he was not the most skillful. He denies none of the above. He started boxing because someone looked at his frame and suggested he might be good at it. Besides, Earnie had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was heading for skid row and he was bright enough to know it. Boxing was a way out of that life and it was a way of earning a few extra bucks which would come in handy.

So, in search of some money and a better way of life Earnie entered the ring with no great illusions as to his abilities and his strengths — and there was only one strength — a right hand that must have come from — well—- God!

Oh and the left hand was pretty nifty as well.

Fight fans reflecting on Earnie’s career say he was great box office because you never knew what you were going to get! Would you get ponderous slow Earnie, sluggish Earnie, ambling Earnie? Or would you get the ” Oh Jesus, the lights just went out” Earnie?

Like many fighters, Earnie hung on to the career in the ring for too long and at the tail end of the career he lost a few to younger men who may not have stood in his way for too long when he was younger!

That leaves you with stats which show that he fought 89 professional fights losing 14 times and drawing once. That then means that he won 74 professional fights in the heavyweight division at a time when it really was the land of the giants!

Further, of the 74 wins, an amazing 68 were knockouts, and of those knockouts 40 of them came in the first two rounds!! The lesson being that once Earnie hit you– well you stayed hit!

Many articles on Earnie start with the explanation that he was slow, ponderous, never top notch but that he had the most devastating one punch power in the history of boxing.

Shavers’ punching power has lead to some of the funniest quotes I have ever heard from members of the boxing fraternity. These guys are not necessarily the most literate but their words tell you of their genuine……. heartfelt……. experience of being in there with Shavers:

” Nobody hits like Shavers! If someone hit harder than Shavers I’d have to shoot him!” Tex Cobb

“Earnie hit me harder than any other fighter, including Mike Tyson. He hit me and I was face down on the canvas hearing saxophonist Jimmy Tillis”  —– Larry Holmes

” Earnie hit me, and the only thing that saved me was the Canvass! I was out but hit the Canvass that hard it woke me up!” —–  Larry Holmes

“Earnie could punch you in the neck with his right hand and break your ankle.” Tex Cobb

“Earnie hit me so hard, he shook my kinfolk back in Africa” Mohammed Ali

” Strongest man I ever fought? Earnie Shavers! Far stronger than me — hit far harder. I thought he was a bum! Man he ain’t no bum — he hit harder than anyone — hurt me bad!” —- Mohammed Ali

“Hey man, that’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life. And George Foreman could punch, but none of them could hit like Earnie Shavers did. When he hit you, the lights went out. I can laugh about it now, but at the time,it wasn’t funny.” Ron Lyle

“Hardest i’ve ever been hit? Earnie Shavers. The ground came up and met me. That’s all I remember.” Ron Lyle

“Shavers hit so hard he turned horse p*ss into gasoline! He hit me so hard he brought back tomorrow. When he hit me… I was seeing pink rats and cats and animals smoking cigarettes. I was in the land of make-believe.”  James Tillis

“The baddest motherf*cker I fought was Earnie Shavers. That motherf*cker can make July into June and made me jump over the motherf*ckin’ moon. That motherf*cker hit so hard, he’ll bring back tomorrow. He hit me so hard, I thought I was on the corner smoking a cigarette and eating a spam sandwich. That’s how hard that motherf*cker hit.” James Tillis

And so it goes on. Mills Lane the referee and federal judge said that he had never seen anyone who punched like Shavers and never will again in the future.

Legendary Boxing journalist and commentator Bert Sugar said of Shavers that his punching wasn’t “Thunderous” it was “Murderous” — Earnie could half a horse!!!!

Earnie was prone to cuts and prone to run out of steam after 5 or 6 rounds which is why he never won the big prize, but even in fights that he lost against the very best he asked questions of the guys that were king of the pile at the time and forced them to answer if they wanted to keep their crown.

When Ali’s Doctor Ferdie Pacheco learned that Ali had been signed to fight Shavers a couple of fights after the Thriller in Manilla his reaction was immediate. ” Not Shavers! Jesus anybody but Shavers! Fight two other guys at once if you want just not Shavers!”

Ali was already showing signs of long term damage to the head and Pacheco was not at all happy about the fight going ahead— it would be the last time that he would sit in Ali’s corner as he quit immediately after the fight and would later write to Ali, Angelo Dundee and Ali’s wife and family explaining why Ali should retire.

Shavers V Ali

Ali and Shavers went an amazing 15 rounds. Over half the television sets in America were tuned into the fights from Las Vegas. Only Frazier and Norton had beaten Ali and this was to be his nineteenth defence of the heavyweight title. Norton was commentating at ringside— he would have his day with Earnie a couple of years down the line— it would last less than a round with the man who gave Ali such trouble being forced to leave the ring in less than a round as Earnie just blew him away.

There was a strange relationship between Earnie and Ali. Earnie loved the champion, absolutely revered him. In turn, Ali had previously allowed Shavers to use his training camp for nothing in preparation for fights.

Before a very pro Ali crowd at Las Vegas the two squared off. No one thought this would go very far. Ali was a far better fighter than Earnie. Earnie had no stamina but always had the punchers chance. Ali had christened him ” The Acorn” because of his bald head and in the ring before the fight Ali rubbed Earnie’s bald dome and clearly clowned and joked in outrageous fashion.

Once the action got under way, even Earnie joked and mocked Ali’s punching power– and then things got serious!

In the second round Earnie hit Ali repeatedly. With one punch he staggered Ali so bad that the champion instinctively had to grab the ropes with his hands to stay on his feet. If ever proof were needed that Ali took a hell of a punch then this was it. Instead of going down as many had before, Ali feigned and acted — he waved Shavers in, pretending he wasn’t hurt which caused Shavers to hesitate and back off when he should have gone in and blasted away. He was that close to the title.

Shavers himself describes the moment. He knew he had hurt Ali — at least he thought he had — and then Ali waved him in and started acting goofy. Later Earnie explained that Ali’s actions got him thinking ” Hang on — this is Ali! He wants me to walk in — look what happened to George?” and so he waited… and his chance was gone — although the fight ebbed and flowed for 15 rounds.

When Earnie fought Holmes for the title exactly two years later he wasn’t given much of a chance. Holmes had shaded a decision over Norton to win the title and had already beaten Shavers comprehensively on points in an earlier bout. Again, Holmes was a far better boxer with a devastating ramrod straight left which in this second fight would open up horrific cuts on Earnie’s eyes.

Then came the seventh round:

When Larry Holmes fell to a Shavers right it was like watching a tree falling! He went down in a wide arc and literally bounced off the canvass.

Amazingly he got up! He didn’t know where he was when he got up but by God he got up — held on staggered around, blinked like fury and survived. Earnie would catch him again in the 9th round and send him to the canvass once more although this time it would officially be classed as a slip. When you see it —- it looks like a big belt of a slip to the head!

Again, Earnie would lose out to a better and an incredibly brave champion but he had thrilled the crowd if not Larry Holmes.

Shavers described Holmes as the best fighter he ever faced saying that he fought Holmes the first time and got well beaten, but the second time he did alright. However he would later be brutally frank: ” Listen, I could fight Larry Holmes 25 times, and Larry would win all 25 bouts cause he was better than me and could take a hell of a punch.”

Of Ali Shavers later revealed ” Man I didn’t really want to hit him at all. Here is the greatest of all time, someone who I admired and worshipped— I didn’t want to hit him at all but I was going for the title? So I hit him and went 15 good rounds with the Greatest. He won– I got paid a lot of money and enhanced my reputation a bit so we both didn’t do too bad!”

Today, Shavers, Ali and Foreman in particular enjoy a very close relationship. Once a year Shavers hosts a joint dinner and fundraiser with Ali raising money for underprivileged children. He is vehement when it comes to Ali. ” Don’t feel sorry for the man — he doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him. He is fine — laughs and jokes behind his disease and illness — he ain’t sorry for himself!”

Similarly, with smiley George, he is at his best. They have preached together, talk boxing together and do a lot of laughing together.

Earnie has been married several times, but a good few years ago he came to England and fell in love with a women who was his long term partner. Her Nephew had boxed with Earnie in America and had set up a security business and he asked Earnie to come on board.

Can  you imagine the scene in Liverpool– where if you stood in line to get into certain bars you would first have to get by the large bald black man? Above his head there is a TV monitor showing someone knocking seven bells out of various boxers in the ring– with the slow realisation that the guy doing the banging was standing right in front of you. Many articles say that when he was doing his security work Earnie gained the “respect” of the customers!!

Respect? — well that is one way of putting it!!

Shavers did a huge amount of charity work in his time in England — lecturing to school kids and colleges about choosing the right path in life, avoiding drugs, believing in yourself and so on.

He did a lot of after dinner speaking with his deep gravel voice which booms out of his frame.

His words are clear and his smile is huge. He suffers no ill effects from his time in the ring — and his opinion is clear!

He says he boxed at a great time when the heavyweight division had any number of guys that could have been champion at that time and at any other time and his views are clear.

The Klitchco’s? — not fit to carry Ali’s Gym Bag?

Tyson? He blew it? Blew his character even more than his career! Conducted himself in a way whereby no one will want to speak to him about Boxing when he is finished.

There is a story by a well known journalist about Tyson meeting Earnie for the first time when Iron Mike was on a visit to England. The journo describes the meeting and Tyson looking at Shavers and wondering if he could have taken him in his heyday? In turn the journalist says Shavers looked back and looked to be wondering if he could take Tyson — now at the age of 55?

Later Shavers would say ” I’d have knocked him out! Mike walks forward on to a punch and he didn’t like to get hit — and I hit!”

Shavers is now back in the States — still preaching, doing boxing shows, personal appearances, charity dinners and so on.

He will talk to you about anyone in boxing apparently:

He has appeared on the Late Late show in Ireland when it was hosted by Ron Lyle where the two of them just talked boxing. He has his own favored haunt in Dublin where there is a treasured photo of him behind the bar with a pint of Guinness in his huge hand!

He says of Foreman ” Has he tried to sell you a grill yet? Man if he gives me another grill I swear I will hit him with it!”

Earnie is also certain about his greatest victory — it was against Don King! ” Hey I beat him in court– not many can say that.”

He had a dispute with King over his management — and many say that had Earnie been better managed he would have been Champion, but Shavers believes that he was in with a great bunch and was just glad to be in the game at the time.

Earnie co-penned an Autobiography which is as good a read about this period in the heavyweight division. It is an unusual book, telling a wholly human story about a journeyman boxer who has that one big punchers chance. It also tells you about a lot of guys in the same division, how they had day jobs and what they did after their careers ended. They can’t all be champions! It is called “Welcome to the big time!” and is well worth a read.

Today Mohammed Ali is 71 years old — he will receive cards and good wishes aplenty!

Earnie Shavers has no doubt. ” Ali was the greatest! Strongest in character in and out of the ring! Biggest Man I ever met!”

No doubt Earnie will send a card and George will send yet another grill and possibly even a steak to cook on it. That is the way it is with these guys!

I am loathe to put up links to You Tube on here but go take a look at some clips of Earnie and notice how the odd fighter reacted to being hit by Shavers! The number of big guys — well known guys — who would beat the count, hang on to the ropes or the referee and then take two steps forward before once again falling to the ground is incredible — almost comedic. However those scenes are a testament to two things. The first is the bravery and instinct of those men — the will to get up and fight on which is dredged out of the pit of somewhere. The second of course is Shavers’ power — when Earnie got that right hand on he effectively separated man from his senses — temporarily detaching the brain from the spinal chord leaving the limbs unable to follow the brain’s commands or the brain unable to give those commands in the first place. It is actually quite frightening.

However if the Fellowship were to have a conference in Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games they could do worse than invite a few words from Earnie Dee Shavers.

One of my favorite Gospel stories is the parable of the man who always stands at the back of the church.

However If Earnie was conducting the service — I for one would be happy to sit in the front pew!

Oh and if we went for a pint — I would want him on my side in a fight!

Shavers fist

N “Nobody hits like Shavers. If anybody hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot him.”obody hits like Shavers. If anybody hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot him.”


2 Responses to “The only one I didn’t want to punch me? Was that– son of a preacher– man!!!”

  1. Dermot January 17, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    That’s no bad for you auld yin…really good read…you buying lunch again?

  2. BakuBhoy January 19, 2013 at 4:20 am #

    BRTH, thanks for another great read. Loved this and the Lee Trevino one.

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