Earnie Shavers, is an American former professional boxer and two-time world heavyweight title challenger. He is considered by most boxing experts to be the hardest-punching knockout artist of all time….having scored 24 first-round knockouts. Shavers is best known for his fights with Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali….and despite losing these contests….he did score a heavy knockdown against Holmes and had Ali badly hurt. He scored notable wins over Vicente Rondón, Jimmy Young, Jimmy Ellis, Ken Norton and Joe Bugner.
Shavers fought Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden on September 29, 1977. Coming into the bout, Shavers had a record of 54-5-1, with 52 knockouts. Ali nicknamed Shavers “The Acorn” because of his shaved bald head, unlike early appearances. The fight was shown in prime time broadcast television by NBC….which rarely did prime time fights (ABC tended to get the Ali fights) and had the judges’ scoring announced after each round to help avoid any controversial decision. Ali’s cornerman Angelo Dundee had a crony (Baltimore matchmaker Eddie Hrica) in the dressing room watching the broadcast….who would get signals from his friend on the scoring. In the second round, Shavers hurt Ali badly with an overhand right. Ali exaggerated his motions enough that it seemed he might be play acting and Shavers hesitated. On the scorecard they exchanged rounds. Ali won the fifth decisively. To win the fight Ali had to survive the last three rounds. Shavers, whose stamina was suspect before the fight, came alive in the 13th round. In the 14th, he battered Ali about the ring. Before the 15th, (according to the story by Sports Illustrated‘s great boxing writer Pat Putnam) “Ali was on very wobbly legs.”
Realizing Ali needed to last three more minutes, Dundee told him, “You don’t look so good. You better go out and take this round.” In a furious final round, the two men tagged each other, but Ali closed strongly, nearly dropping Shavers in the last 20 seconds. He won a unanimous decision. The next day, Garden Match Maker Teddy Brenner encouraged Ali to retire by stating the Garden would never make another offer to host an Ali fight. Brenner also thought that Shavers deserved the nod against Ali. The fight made the cover of Sports Illustrated, with “ALI’S DESPERATE HOUR” featuring a photograph of Shavers scoring with an overhand right. Fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco also urged Ali to retire after noting the damage Ali had absorbed against Shavers. Ali later said Shavers was the hardest puncher he ever faced, famously stating “Earnie hit me so hard, it shook my kinfolk back in Africa”.
This fight between Shavers and Sims was a tremendous fight…..with some huge punches thrown by two heavy hitters. I want to apologize for the less than perfect picture on this recording….but it doesn’t take a thing away from a really good heavyweight fight.