Chasing Muhammad Ali, Fighting the Opioids
One man's heroic return from crushing loss! Boxing's George Foreman called George Chuvalo “the toughest man on the planet." Chuvalo went on to have a special lifelong relationship with Muhammad Ali based on their two epic bouts. Then, in retirement, he lost three sons & his wife to opioids. Chuvalo had to rebuild his life from the ashes, embarking on a one-man crusade to reach out to young people. More
In 1972, George Foreman, after his wild and controversial bout with George Chuvalo, called Chuvalo “the toughest man on the planet.” Chuvalo went on to become the all-time iron man of boxing. The only heavyweight in the recorded history of the sport never to be knocked out, never knocked down, never even knocked off his feet.
Jack Dempsey, one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, also said about a young eighteen-year old Chuvalo, “This boy’s a natural. If I could have fought like this kid, I would have been champion of the world at twenty.” Shortly after that, another legendary heavyweight, Rocky Marciano, was to say to weigh in, “Take my word on it, this kid’s going to be the next heavyweight champion of the world.”
So, there it was. George Chuvalo’s destiny laid out before him like very few had ever had in the history of the fight game.
Chuvalo's career quickly became defined by his determination to face down the great Muhammad Ali in the ring and fulfil his own destiny to become the heavyweight champion of the world. But landing a bout with the man who would become known as ‘The Greatest of All Time’ turned out to be an elusive study in frustration since every other highly-ranked contender in the boxing world was also doing the same thing... chasing Ali. The Fix was also a commonplace in boxing of that era and Chuvalo had many big fights and big paydays snatched away from him by the Fix, including many attempts to step into the rig with Ali when a bout with Ali meant the biggest paydays and biggest career boost in all of boxing.
Still, in a career that spanned twenty-two years, Chuvalo faced every heavyweight champion and top-ranked challenger of his era; Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Gerry Quarry, so many others, and twice he was to succeed in stepping into the ring with Ali. The first time in 1966 and then again in 1972, a total of twenty-seven punishing rounds during which they formed a special bond forged by fire in the heavyweight ring. That special friendship was to endure between them until Ali’s death in 2017.
Then, just as Chuvalo’s boxing career wound down and he was settling into retirement, opioids began to infest his family and his battles became ones of another kind. Deadly, hard-to-read-about, life-and-death battles against ‘the poison,’ which is the only word that Chuvalo would ever use for opioids. He also hit hard times financially and Ali was there for Chuvalo twice when Chuvalo was down and in a state of dire need. Ali personally donated more than $50,000 on two separate occasions to help get his old foe-turned-friend back on his feet.
At the same time, Chuvalo was fighting daily against "the poison" was to lose four of his family to opioid related causes; his youngest son, Jesse Miles; his middle son, Georgie Lee, then his wife, Lynne, only three days apart; and, finally, his second son, Steven, just three years later. What Chuvalo was to call "a personal holocaust."
Finally down and feeling utterly beaten, Chuvalo was sinking into despair. He had to find a way to re-build his life from the ashes, and two things happened. First, Joanne O'Hara stepped in and did an intervention when Chuvalo was in his darkest hours. Joanne saved she'd saved his life and Chuvalo took to calling her his "guardian angel." She was also to become the second Mrs. Chuvalo.
With Joanne's support, Chuvalo took on one more battle— this one to launch the George Chuvalo Fight Against Drugs foundation and take his painful but heartfelt message of warning, courage, and hope to many thousands of young people about that most seductive and destructive of all drugs— opioids.
Available ebook formats: