George Chuvalo isn’t surprised mixed martial arts has taken over the fight world.
One of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, Chuvalo said the absence of larger-than-life characters in that division has contributed to the sport’s dip in popularity.
“MMA appeals to a lot of people — especially the young guys,” said Chuvalo, who was in town for Friday night’s Lord of the Rings card at the Subway Soccer Centre.
“The heavyweight division, not being what it used to be, has lent a helping hand to MMA.
“Who are the best fighters in the world? It’s the heavyweights because they’re the biggest. But they’re not exciting in this particular era. The last 10 years or so, there hasn’t been anybody who captures the imagination of people.”
Chuvalo, who went 73-18-2 with 64 knockouts during a spectacular career, said he doesn’t mind MMA, but wasn’t too impressed with the recent bout between boxer James Toney and UFC veteran Randy Couture.
“James Toney didn’t make boxing look too good,” he said.
“He didn’t do anything. He just sat there with his fat little body waiting for something to happen, and he got upended.
“You have to do what Merciless Ray Mercer does. He just walks in there and bangs you out. You can’t pussyfoot around.”
Despite trading blows with the likes of Muhammad Ali (twice) and George Foreman, Chuvalo was never knocked to the canvas a single time.
These days, a big heavyweight tilt goes almost unnoticed by the sporting world.
“The Klitchko brothers — you’ll see a small paragraph in the paper after they fight,” Chuvalo said.
“But nobody’s talking about it before the fight. No one’s talking about it at the gym, at school, at work.
“Nobody knows they’re fighting. There’s no buzz.
“When Mike Tyson or Mohamad Ali or Joe Frazier or George Foreman was going to fight, it was exciting. Everyone was looking forward to it.”
Chuvalo, who came to Calgary to pay tribute to longtime friend and legendary Calgary boxing promoter Ken Billinghurst, said today’s heavyweights could cure insomnia.
“They throw a punch every hour,” said Chuvalo, who owns the fourth-highest knockout percentage (87.7%) in heavyweight history. “They throw punches like they’re on rations.
“With Joe Frazier, it was bing, bam, boom. Same with Ali. But the guys today don’t throw a lot of punches.
“Now it’s waiting, waiting, jab, break. If you want to wait that much, get a job as a waiter.”
Known for his bulldog, never-say-die approach in the ring, Chuvalo has no doubt where he’d rank among today’s heavyweights.
“I’d probably be champ,” Chuvalo said with a smile. “I don’t think much of the guys today.
“I think there were a lot of guys from my day who weren’t champions who would be champions today.
“But I came from the golden era of heavyweights.”