Posted By: Michael Cecchin
There is no denying the fact that the world of boxing has taken a stabilized backseat to mixed martial arts and the phenomenon that is the UFC. Interest and viewership has decreased steadily and the sports’ reputation has been questioned since the early 1980’s. For fans and enthusiasts of the sport, nothing can or will compare to what was known as boxing’s ‘golden era’ which saw the sports’ greatest champions and contenders battle in what were wars inside the ring. Despite names such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, no heavyweight at the time had a bigger heart or more will than George Chuvalo.
Chuvalo was born in Toronto, Ontario and held a professional career record of 73-18-2; never once being knocked down in 93 fights. He held the Canadian Heavyweight Title for years; retiring as the champ, and took Muhammad Ali the distance twice with Ali crediting Chuvalo as the toughest guy he had ever fought. Chuvalo was known for having the toughest chin in boxing as the punches thrown his way didn’t seem to faze him. He was respected and admired by his opponents and fans for being one of the toughest guys to enter the ring, but that was only a sample of just how strong George Chuvalo really was.
From 1985 until 1996, a dark cloud casted over the Chuvalo family as George lost three sons and his wife to both drug overdoses and suicide; his son Jesse in 1985 to suicide; Georgie Lee in 1993 to a drug overdose; his wife shortly after the death of Georgie Lee to suicide; and son Steven Louis in 1996 to a drug overdose. Through his years of battles in the ring, none can come close to the tragedy George Chuvalo faced within his personal life. The strongest man to ever enter the ring would stand face to face with the demon that brought his family to its knees; eventually using his experience to benefit others and teach young people the negativity drugs and alcohol can bring to not only an individual but an entire family.
Through the dark and haunting experiences George Chuvalo encountered came a light of hope for thousands of youth who may be on their way to battling addiction and drug abuse. Chuvalo is constantly speaking in front of large groups of students at school assemblies and community centers showing a deep and personal video of his family’s struggles; a video that Chuvalo says always grasps the hearts of each child he shows.
“One of my sons in the video is speaking from jail, before I show them the video I tell them that I lost three sons and lost my wife but when I show them the video I had only lost two sons,” said Chuvalo
“When I come back to speak I have to update them and tell them that nine months and 11 days after the video, my son Steven who speaks from jail and seemed so hopeful in beating drugs, also passed away. When they find out that he too died from a drug overdose they gasp,” he continued.
“Everybody is rooting for him to do well and when they find that he too also died, it’s kind of difficult for them to understand all of that, but as it plays out in the presentation it makes it easier for them to understand.”
Not only does George visit with high school students, but he also makes frequent visits and speaks with young people in jail. His messages of self respect and honour for not only yourself but for your family and parents is a lesson he relays on a constant basis. He also stresses the importance of education and self-discipline in order to have a chance at a successful and happy future for yourself and your future family.
“Its important to see a healthy future for yourself, when I go to speak with young people in jail there’s always a common denominator, it seems like mostly they all do poorly in school. You have to do well in school to see a healthy future for yourself and your future family,” Chuvalo stated.
Happiness and love are both the most important aspects to living a healthy productive life regardless what your social status may be. Love for your parents, family or those closest to you are essential to keeping your feet on the ground. George Chuvalo knows firsthand what kind of void drugs can fill and just why they are used to fill that void. His experiences have made him into even more of a superman and to him the big picture comes down to your love of self.
“What is self esteem but the raw truth and the way you really see yourself. So when you see yourself in a healthy way, in a positive way you feel better about yourself. If you see yourself as unsuccessful and it doesn’t go well for you, if doing poorly in school doesn’t bode for you in the future, you can’t feel good about yourself, simple as that in so many ways.”
George has since remarried and has gained a family once again. He is joined by his current wife when traveling to speak about the devastation of drugs and alcohol. He was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1998 and was awarded a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2005. A story on inspiration not for his ventures in the ring but for the war he faced outside.