Fondly recalling those fighters of yesteryear who we’ve sadly lost.
Earnie Shavers – 1944-2022
Posted September 4, 2022
This last week we sadly lost Earnie Shavers at 78 years of age.
Muhammad Ali nicknamed him ‘The Acorn’ for obvious reasons. ‘The Greatest’ fought Earnie two times, the second in 1977 for the Heavyweight Championship of the World winning a unanimous decision, but not before Ali had to come through a power punching blitzkreig.
Earnie would fight for the world title again in 1979 against hall-of-famer Larry Holmes but again fall short losing by stoppage in the eleventh round. The story of the fight was not the successful defence made by ‘Easton Assassin’ Holmes, but how he got poleaxed by an overhand right from Shavers in the sixth round and Holmes somehow managed to climb back off the canvas to win. Try to catch this on YouTube.
The man from Alabama, USA would never fight for the title again but for much of the 1970’s, a decade of some of the greatest heavyweights of all time, Earnie would be the most feared big man of his generation.
Earnie, active from 1969-1995, finished with a record of 74 wins, 14 losses and one draw. His knockout record however, told the full story. Sixty eight wins by KO. He was such a devastating one-punch KO artist that he was recently ranked #6 by The Ring magazine in their listing of the greatest punchers of the last 100 years. Some accolade when he was only topped by Joe Louis, Archie Moore, Sandy Saddler, Jack Dempsey and George Foreman, all legendary world champions and punchers.
The father of ten (including nine girls !) mixed it with the best of his era – Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Jimmy Young, Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry. Lyle rated Shavers an even bigger puncher than George Foreman after facing both. Foreman, whom Earnie never faced, is on record as saying “I wanted nothing to do with Earnie…what a puncher”.
Shavers contrasted his intimidating demeanour inside the ring with an affable personality outside. Always present at hall-of-fame gatherings and happy to mix with the public and sign autographs. His signature always suffixed with the word ‘Peace’.
This writer had the pleasure to meet him on two occasions. The first, after receiving a tip off in the early 2000’s that Earnie had somehow found his way to Merseyside in the UK, and was working the door as a bouncer at Yates’ bar in Liverpool city centre. Completely gobsmacked I found my way to the bar in the midst of a raucous evening and Earnie was there. I introduced myself and said what a privilege it was to meet him. His eyes lit up at the recognition, despite it being known amongst clubbers that the ‘big man’ was working the door, not many were familiar with his back story and career. In a short chat he was the consumate gentleman and humble to a fault.
The next time was 2010 in Cardiff, Wales at the WBC Carnival of Champions. Earnie, as stated, had never won their title but his brave challenges for it and puncher’s notoriety meant he shared the top tables with the other legends on show. I shared a photo with him and he kindly gave me that signature, offering me his ‘Peace’ sign off. He was one of the most popular fighters on show over the whole memorable weekend.
Earnie Shavers was not one of the greatest heavyweights of all time but he was one of the greatest punchers in the greatest era of the division. The memories he left will stand in the history of the sport and the champions who felt his power still shudder at the thought. As one fighter famously said “When Earnie hit you on the chin…you broke your ankle”.
May he rest in peace and thanks for the memories Earnie.