Chuvalo's wins not all in ring

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

The pain Canadian boxing great George Chuvalo has had to endure over the years has been documented well enough.

Not equally known is how Chuvalo, a top-10 fighter during the golden age of heavyweights, has risen above superhuman tragedy to reach out to others, mainly through his Fight Against Drugs Foundation. Anyone who has attended one of Chuvalo's presentations can attest to the power of his message and how remarkable it is that he has been able to rise above the drug-related deaths of three sons and his wife.

More than that, Chuvalo is a man of gestures. Often incredibly kind ones.

Chuvalo isn't a saint, never claimed to be one.

But he won't let a chance to do good go away, if he can help it.

A couple of weeks ago, Chuvalo had a presentation scheduled in Hudson Falls, N.Y. A couple of Hamilton friends, Mike and Bernie Slattery (big boxing fans and distant relatives of light-heavyweight great Jimmy Slattery), mentioned that Chuvalo's one-time sparring partner, Charlie (Devil) Green, was incarcerated for triple murder at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, N.Y., a couple of hours from Hudson Falls by car.

Chuvalo readily agreed that it would be a good idea to visit Green, who was sentenced to 45 years to life for killing three people in a Harlem cocaine den in 1983.

Green has denied the crime but there were eyewitnesses. The cops nabbed him a few hours after the murders at his lawyer's office in Manhattan. He was hanging in an air shaft, bare-chested, snorting cocaine out of a plastic bag, threatening to jump 15 floors to his death.

Green has been locked up ever since and won't be eligible for parole until 2028, when he is 90 (or thereabouts. His age hasn't been exactly determined). Undoubtedly, he'll die in prison.

Chuvalo and the Slatterys spent an hour with Green, who was known as one of the hardest punchers in the light-heavyweight division. Chuvalo said Green packed a punch more powerful than most heavyweights and, indeed, knocked down former world light-heavyweight champion Jose Torres during a 1969 match.

Green recorded KOs over some of the top light-heavyweights of the day and even fought two-time heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson.

Green sparred with Chuvalo in the Catskills in upstate New York, probably when the Canadian heavyweight champion was training for his 1970 fight against George Foreman.

"I remember him coming into the gym," said Chuvalo. "He was a wild dresser, very hip for the time. He wore a white frilly, lime-green shirt, with a long collar, and a jump suit, like a pair of overalls, but made with nice material. To this day, when I think of Charlie Green, I think of that song, The Age of Aquarius."

It was a different Charlie Green that Chuvalo met at the prison last month.

Green shuffled into the visitor's centre wearing a prison-issued shirt, pants and a yarmulke.

"He looked like a wizened old man on his way to the synagogue," Chuvalo said of Green, a practising Ethiopian Jew.

Chuvalo would like to report that the it was an emotional, heart-felt reunion. But the truth is that 'The Devil' didn't seem to remember his former sparring partner.

But it was nice reunion nevertheless. Chuvalo said they kibitzed and told old stories for an hour, and his Canadian visitors gave him $50, the most a prisoner is allowed to accept.

"He seemed very happy that we were there," said Chuvalo. "I don't think he gets many visitors, so from that standpoint, we felt good being there, that somebody thought enough of him to visit."

Chuvalo said he will visit Green again, probably this summer.

"I believe he's resigned that he'll be there for life and to the fact that he's going to die there," said Chuvalo, adding that while Green claimed "he got a raw deal" from the courts, "he sounded pretty guilty to me.

"He still seemed happy despite the confusion and despair of being in prison. I'm sure he was happy about the 50 bones too," said Chuvalo, with a chuckle.


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