Earnie Shavers Power pt. 1

L et me start off by saying this guy could write a golf ball through a garden hose. He clearly doesn’t know s- about boxing, and the fact that he’s got a blog or alternatively is writing on someone’s boxing blog is categorical proof that the average intellectual level of published content is about that of my second flush.

Let’s look at his principle contentions:

Because Earnie Shavers didn’t knock out the many good heavyweights of his generation, he must not have real power. 

Pure knockouts, and by that I mean one-punch, come from a combination of power and accuracy generally speaking. However, of the two, accuracy is far more important. There are several vulnerable places on the human skull that can cause a knockout in most people when delivered with sufficient force:

  1. The point of the chin. The jawbone is the only loose bone in the skull, and when a man is caught with a shot – particularly a hook or otherwise laterally traveling punch – the jawbone rattles in its sockets and transfers not only the rotational but the vibrational force to the brain as well. It’s the difference between rolling a ball bearing in a coffee can from one side to the other and shaking the hell out of it. The perfect shot to the point of the chin is such an effective shot that even the most durable fighters can be knocked down by a relatively modest shot, because it will literally scramble your brain in your skull
  2. ‘The temples. Not the cranium mind you. Hitting people on top of the skull is a sure-fire way to crack every bone in your arm from your pinky to your shoulder socket, and it isn’t a particularly effective KO punch. If you put your fingers on your eyebrows and move them back towards your ears until you hit a softer spot just past your eye socket, that’s the area. There are tissues, blood vessels, and all kinds of s- that gets disrupted when you pound of that area, and if you don’t believe me give yourself a decent tap; you will actually feel a bit of your equilibrium jostle around. Those are the shots that make you dizzy.
  3. To a lesser degree, a shot to the neck around where the jawbone and ear meets the flesh. Never thought about that, did you? Fighters get hit in the neck all the time, and let me tell you, it SUCKS… It also can really mess up your equilibrium very badly.

Anything other than those shots requires a very significant impact to put someone down unless they are weak in a part of the body like the neck or shoulders and don’t have the muscle strength to stop their head from bobbling around like a drunk. Body shots have to be delivered exceptionally hard and from a correct angle to relatively well protected small areas in order to actually end a fight. Simple spinning someone’s head around with a shot to the face, i.e., anywhere on your face you can feel bone, like the eye sockets, cheeks, forehead, and the general side of the face, will be sufficient to score, damage, or cut a fighter, but not put them on their back.

If you look at the average fighter’s face after a fight, you see swelling around and particularly above both eyes, bruising to the temple, swelling and blood on the lips, and bruising and blood from the nose. This is just part of the sport, and if injuries to those areas are causing you to go splattering onto the canvas like a marionette with its strings caught in an immersion blender, you need to go to the University of Phoenix and learn how to hook up electrical sockets.

Where I’m going with all this is, comparing KO percentages is only about forty percent of the story. For instance, Tyson was not only a powerful and fast puncher, but extremely accurate. The reason his opponents went down like rag dolls is because he was able to weave his way inside and deliver ridiculous shots to the chin from all angles. When you see a man go flailing, you know exactly where he was hit.

In that regard, Tyson is what we would refer to as a knockout artist. His success was a combination of a lot of things, of which accuracy played a huge role. In contrast, the great Joe Lewis was a man who simply had ridiculous power. A born puncher, Lewis not only knocked guys out, but was able to deliver those shots over extremely short distances. Yes, he was accurate, but unlike Tyson he was essentially able to break a human into pieces with destructive short shots when they tried to walk inside. The only comparison I can think of would be being repeatedly hit all over with a Christmas stocking stuffed with a brick; no matter where it hits you, it’s going to hurt very, very badly. Even when he knocked guys out with six punch combinations early in fights, it made no difference where they landed on the skull. The lights simply went out.

Earnie Shavers is of this mold. He was a clubber, not a knockout artist, and in fact, he wasn’t even that good a boxer if we’re really honest with ourselves. He was difficult to deal with simply because he hit so goddamn hard, not because he was crafty. Let’s take idiot on his own ground and observe the nature and delivery of the shots that hurt the men Moronicus Maximus quotes that led to their endorsement of Shavers’ power.

1. Randall Tex Cobb. Cobb was widely admired for his ability to take an asswhooping. In his 15 round decision loss of every single lopsided round to Larry Holmes, he took a beating that was bordering on embarrassing but for the fact that it was so bad you had to take your hat off  that he stood there and took it. Even Larry backed off for fear of having to actually dislocate a skull plate in order to finish him off. For the last seven rounds, Howard Cosell was so apathetically disgusted that the fight was even made in the first place that he retired from commentating on the sport.  To this day Cobb claims that getting Howard Cosell to retire is easily his proudest achievement in the ring.

The first round tells you everything you need to know. Cobb had made his career as a fearsome puncher himself, and in the first 20 seconds he cut and dazed Earnie to the point that Shavers did next to nothing until the final 45 seconds. Cobb is firing and firing, and all of a sudden Shavers connects with a sloppy, looping wide hook that was clearly intended and thrown in the same manner as a casually psychopathic construction worker swings a wrecking ball into a twelve story building.

Cobb stops in his tracks and tries to throw back. Shavers hits him with another looping shot, and Cobb starts to wilt and back up. A jab followed by another hook visibly deflates Cobb to the point where he decides the next shot he’s going to throw is going to be his ass onto his stool when the round is over. Cobb goes from basically trying to finish Shavers to backing and trying to slap punches away like he’s protecting a dislocated eyeball.  All of this occurred while Shavers was completely unbalanced and woozy owing to the first part of the round.

Now that’s power. Power is a fighter being able to control the pace and development of a fight simply by virtue of the desire of his opponent not to be hit again by even a single punch. Round three is even better. Cobb, a huge man in his own right, catches a massive left hook late in the round, and immediately goes into a defensive shell. The final punch of the round is so hard that it literally knocks Cobb about five feet backwards and almost lifts him off the ground.

And that’s essentially the pattern of the first five rounds. Cobb is winning simply by controlling the vast majority of every round, and at some point Shavers does something that ensures Cobb will be curled up in the fetal position on the couch for a few weeks after the fight. Round five was the most entertaining for a Shavers fan, as you can literally see Cobb just getting damaged to the body and head by single, painful shots. The only problem is that Cobb was 12 years younger and Shavers was pretty badly out of shape and couldn’t keep it going. Cobb dominated the rest of the fight.

2.  Larry Holmes. Larry Holmes is a man. Other than giving a great but shot Ali a severe beating in a fight that Ferdie Pacheco – Ali’s former cut man – said should have resulted in all the promoters going to jail for having allowed to take place, the thing that most damaged his chronic lack of public support was telling the world on live television that “Rocky Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap.” Although intended as a shot at Marciano’s abilities as a fighter, the fact of the matter is that even one of the best and strongest heavyweight champions of all time probably couldn’t even begin to budge Holmes’ jockstrap if it currently contained his gigantic,  Anna Nicole Smith quadruple-X cup Ganymede-sized Jupiter-orbiting Giant Ground Sloth testiculoid balls. Number of people who legitimately knocked Holmes down? Three. Earnie Shavers, an extremely lucky shot from the powerful Renaldo Snipes,and Mike Tyson when Holmes was 38 and had retired two years previously and needed the money.

On top of that, Larry Holmes could hit like a mofo, box like a wizard, and was smack in the middle of a 48-0 streak when he fought Shavers not once but twice.

So right there, losing to Larry Holmes has nothing to do with Shavers’ lack of power, and takes very little away from his career as a whole. However, unlike the Cobb fight, Shavers was ready to go. Again, skills and a lack of defense cost him big, but the truly memorable moment of the 23 rounds they fought came in round 7 of the second fight.

The shot Shavers hit Holmes with in the seventh is one of the most legendary knockdowns in the history of man’s invention of the bulbous stick. Larry literally just crumples like a fastball into a kid’s Lincoln Logs. He takes the shot and literally keels the over like a dead man. Today, I think the fight would have been stopped, because when he got up he stumbled all the way to the other end of the ring, and only didn’t fall down again because he bounced off the ropes and almost miraculously received the perfect weight to spring ratio that uprighted him like a tree trunk magically balancing on its end after cartwheeling off its stump. In fact, Larry’s heart as a fighter was virtually solidified from that single solitary moment when he picked himself up off the canvass.

Seriously, it was that bad. For any other man there would have been a long spine board and a goddamn helicopter called into the ring that night.

3.   Ron Lyle. This is a man that fought one of the most exciting fights in heavyweight history against Foreman, resulting in about 37 knockdowns back and forth until finally Lyle caved. Everything you need to know about Lyle’s chin and will is in this fight.

In the Shavers fight, both men were knocked down, but only one got up. Shavers, again owing to his lack of defense, was stopped by a cumulative s-storm from Lyle who also physically outlasted him in terms of stamina. Lyle however, was floored by a single punch from Shavers that sent him spinning around in the corner like a freaking weed whacker that had thrown the bolt holding it onto the shaft. He got up alright, but he looked like crap. Again, this is a man with a one of the best chins in the best era of heavyweights of all time. Foreman had to knock him down about four times before he was done, and Foreman destroyed nearly everyone he fought. Lyle was also extremely lucky that when the referee restarted the fight the bell rang. If it would have been in the first minute I daresay the result would have been somewhat different.

4.   James “Quick” Tillis. Tillis is known primarily for a single achievement: he is the first man to last the distance against Mike Tyson. That in-and-of-itself is a testament to his nutsack, but his performance against Shavers certainly did a bit to detract from his legacy as a potential future pseudo-Ali.

For four rounds, Tillis easily outboxed Shavers, and at the end of round four had him in the corner smacking away. All of a sudden, Shavers catches him with a right hand to the side of the head that caused Tillis’s legs to stiffen and his left foot turn a full 90 degrees to the right. Then the bell rang…

Tillis basically bounced off the ropes into his corner, where Angelo Dundee guided his butt cheeks onto his stool.

Then, for another four and a half rounds, Tillis proceeds to outbox Shavers like he’s sparring a club fighter. However, it is worth noting that every single time the camera focusses on Tillis in the corner, you have the distinct impression that he really, really doesn’t want to be in that ring any more. Then it happens again. About 50 seconds are left in round nine…

And Shavers connects with a miraculous looping right hand that smacks Tillis into the ring ropes, which then catapult him by virtue of the force of the blow about ten feet forward into the center of the ring where he hits the ground face first and splayed out like Wile E. Coyote after running off a cliff chasing the Roadrunner. I don’t know what this particular ring mat was made out of, but the sheer fact that Tillis didn’t plow through it to the center of the Earth like a tablespoon of neutron star dropped from the space shuttle onto a sheet of phyllo dough would lead me to believe it was something along the lines of imagination and magic.

I’ll give him full credit; he got up. But it speaks to a pattern in Shavers’ career that destroys our idiot friend’s BS idea about Shavers having no KO power compared to other heavyweights.

First off, all the men mentioned above demonstrated time and again that they were able to take the very best from fighters who our dear author readily forwards as paragons of greater power. I didn’t even talk about Ali being hurt badly by another Shavers miracle connection because the totality of it speaks for itself.

Secondly, Shavers’ success in those fights centered around absolutely nothing but his connection of a punch or two  over the course of a 12 round one-sided asswhooping by opponents that well outstripped his skill set. In fact, the only reason the fights are memorable is because Shavers was able to deliver that single punch that nearly derailed any reproductive future of five men he would have had no other business even being in the first seven rows of one of their fights.

Shavers is not a good boxer – probably below average. His defense is sub-par, and combined with his questionable stamina he probably shouldn’t have even been much more than a 10-8 ranked contender in his prime. And yet, he put some of the best heavyweights and best chins of all time either on their back or in dire straights by virtue of the prayer of a single punch that often connected in a relatively ineffectual part of the human skull. The fact that he lost is immaterial to his power. In fact, the attraction of all these fights was precisely the extreme danger of the puncher’s chance. In all cases mentioned, he was able to get himself farther down the track than almost any other fighter of the same skill level towards a massive upset, by virtue of nothing more that his ability to create a moment of dire peril from a shot that, delivered by any other heavyweight, would have been one of the least damaging moments of an almost inconceivably uninteresting and forgettable sparring session.

End of part 1: Screw you, douchetube.

Part 2 to follow.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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