Who was the toughest guy Muhammad Ali ever fought – according to Ali?
The answer is....George Chuvalo.
Not Sonny Liston. Not Floyd Patterson. Not George Foreman. Not Joe Frazier. Not Earnie Shavers. Not Leon Spinks. Not Ken Norton, who broke Ali's jaw. Not even Larry Holmes, who bloodied an aged Ali way past his prime into a bloody pulp in one of his final prizefights, likely resulting in a debilitating final decade as a walking corpse.
Ali's toughest opponent – George Chuvalo.
September 12, 2020 will mark Chuvalo's 83rd birthday. So, let's remember him now and give him his due.
I presume many readers, especially my American friends, have never heard of Chuvalo. He was almost a "Rocky" like figure, from Toronto. His career record as a boxing heavyweight was 73-18-2. Not bad, but hardly the resume one might expect of a fighter scheduled to go up against reigning world champion Ali in his prime.
By March 29, 1966, Ali was thought to be unbeatable. At age 24, with a perfect 19-0 record, Ali had destroyed everyone in boxing. Ali could fend off any challenger, except for one: The United States Government.
In early 1966, Ali had been banned from fighting in the U.S., due to his ongoing battle with the draft board. Ali refused to be accepted into the draft, and became an object of scorn in many parts of America. Ali's options as a heavyweight boxing champion was further annihilated by his association with the Nation of Islam, and change from "Cassius Clay" to the incendiary adopted name "Muhammad Ali" two years earlier.
So, unable to defend his title in the U.S. or earn a living, Ali's prizefights up through 1970 were all held outside his native land. The first match was at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. No one expected the challenger, a local boxer named George Chuvalo to put up much of a fight.
Here's a short recap of the first Ali-Chuvalo fight:
Six years later, the same two boxers would fight again in Vancouver, this time going the distance, a full 12 rounds:
Here's a brief recap of the second Ali-Chuvalo fight:
So, that's a great trivia question, few people will know the answer to – who was Ali's toughest opponent? Well, Ali says it was – George Chuvalo, a Canadian.
Happy 83rd birthday, George. Your life story is a knockout!