Canadian Hall-of-Fame boxer George Chuvalo (73-18-2, 64 KOs) is considered to have one of the greatest chins in the history of boxing, having never been knocked down in ninety-three professional fights.
The former Canadian heavyweight champ is best known for his two fights against Muhammad Ali, and battles against George Foreman and Joe Frazier.
Chuvalo took some time to discuss his thoughts on the sweet science, mixed martial arts and professional wrestling.
MMA Crossfire: What is your assessment of Manny Pacquiao?
George Chuvalo: He has the advantage of being a southpaw. Most guys on this side of the pond aren’t used to fighting southpaws. There are so many of them overseas. They’re awkward to fight. Fighting them is like fighting in a vat of toffee. It’s awkward as hell, at least it was for me and a lot of the guys I know, who had the same lament about fighting southpaws [laughs]. They’re hard to fight.
The thing about Pacquiao is he’s also got a lot of speed, great legs. He can move side-to-side. He’s so quick and he punches pretty good too. And when you punch back, usually he’s not in the same place. He’s a pretty tough fight for anybody.
MMA Crossfire: Even Mayweather?
George Chuvalo: Even Mayweather. Although It’s hard to go against Mayweather because of his superior speed. He’s got great hands, very elusive and a very smart fighter. He’s got great instincts. Not to say Pacquiao doesn’t have them either, but I think you have to make Mayweather the slight favourite. When you think of him, his legs are great too. He has a tremendous amount of confidence and is a very quick puncher, not to say Manny isn’t quick. I think Pacquiao punches a little harder and he’s a southpaw, but Mayweather is agile and hard to hit, so I think it would be more of a tactical fight more than anything else.
Whoever controls the turf in terms of if Pacquiao can get inside, then he’ll win. If Mayweather can keep him at a distance, then he’ll win. That’s basically the way I see it.
MMA Crossfire: Do you think boxing has been rejuvenated by the competition of MMA?
George Chuvalo: I don’t think if they make a fight like this, that MMA is on their minds. This fight is going to happen anyway because it’s a fight the people want to see. I don’t think the promoter is thinking, ‘MMA is creeping up on us, we’d better get a big fight going.’ This is a fight of two unbeaten guys, it’s kind of like Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, when Muhammad first came back. It’s the fight people want to see.
People wanted to see Ali fight Frazier, and people want to see Manny fight Floyd Mayweather. It’s a fight the public wants to see, so they’re going to see it. And it has nothing to do with MMA, by the way.
MMA Crossfire: Were you ever into professional wrestling?
George Chuvalo: When I was a kid, my father took me down to see a few wrestling matches. But when I was fifteen, I used to say to my father, who used to watch the wrestling on the TV with a bunch of older guys, “Pops, don’t watch that stuff, it’s all fixed.’ He said, “I know, but the referee is a dirty son-of-a-gun [Laughs].’ But he liked it, he got a kick out of it.
Nowadays, not really, but the odd time I watch it. The athleticism they display is pretty remarkable for big guys,. They flip, flop, and fly, they’re all over the place. They’re extremely athletic, mobile, very agile for big guys. They’re athletic as hell. From a point of athleticism, I admire the guys tremendously. I really do. They do some wonderful things in there.
MMA Crossfire: Name three fighters who MMA fighters should study to improve their boxing.
George Chuvalo: First of all, I would name a guy like Floyd Mayweather or Roy Jones, all guys with great leg movement. A guy with great leg movement could also strike with his legs from a distance. So from a distance, Mayweather, Roy Jones, Muhammad Ali, but for aggressiveness and taking care of a guy, look for Joe Frazier. You can’t go wrong with the left hook [laughs].
The relentless style of a Joe Frazier. Joe when he walked in, he walked in a crouch and I think that kind of opens yourself up for the [MMA] guys with the kick, because when your head is down that low you can get hit a lot quicker than a guy who is standing vertically. Joe would have a little bit of trouble. So having said that, I’ll say Sonny Liston, who was a banger who moved his head quite well side-to-side rather than ducking. You have to be mindful of the fact that the MMA guys can kick, and the kick from the floor to the head is a lot quicker with a guy like Frazier.
You would have more time to react with a style like Sonny. He’s a very powerful puncher who steps in, but he also moves his head side-to-side and I think that’s important.
MMA Crossfire: What are you up to these days?
George Chuvalo: I go around the country speaking to the kids about drugs. Preventative medicine is my modus operandi, so to speak. Better never to start in the first in the first place, than impose the life sentence of being a drug addict. I talk about what happened to my family. I talk about what helps young people stay on the right track and stuff like that. I usually speak for about an hour and show a video of my family beforehand. It’s an edited version of the nationally shown documentary done by The Fifth Estate back in 1995. I use that because it gives them a pretty good picture of what happened with my family along with my career. The kids watch it and the message seems to sink in better when I do the presentation afterward.
My wife’s [Joanne] a terrific gal. She worked as a drug counselor and still does work with me as a counselor. She was a nurse, so she has a pretty good grip on things. We both can direct them into rehabs that would suit their purpose but as far as trying to get them on track to rehab, my wife is the boss.
MMA Crossfire: You also went to bat for fellow boxer and friend Spider Jones, helping him land the job for the boxing show Famous Knockouts back in the day.
George Chuvalo: He’s a good guy, a character [laughs].
MMA Crossfire: The thing was you refused to do the show unless he was hired…
George Chuvalo: I used him because I knew he had a lot of natural talent. He had never done anything like that before, but I knew he was the right guy for the show. He’s been very appreciative of that stuff. We’re good friends. I recognized his talent, so I guess I can give myself a little pat on the back for that [laughs], but he’s a talented guy and here in Canada, they all know him. He’s interviewed prime ministers, presidents. He’s come a long way. I used tell him, ‘You know Chuck, one day you’re going to be famous.‘ He used to say, ‘You think so?’ And I would say, ‘Yeah.’ And after he worked with me on the show, he got a shot with the radio and now people know him all over the place [laughs].
MMA Crossfire: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us George.
George Chuvalo: Thank you.
Editor’s Note: Check out George Chuvalo’s documentary Still Standing: The
People’s Champion George Chuvalo here.