Heavyweight Legends Speak on Wilder-Fury and More

By Caryn A. Tate on November 30, 2018
Heavyweight Legends Speak on Wilder-Fury and More
“He’s from Alabama, I’m from Alabama. So I’m gonna go with Deontay.” (Caryn A. Tate)

Showtime’s Jim Gray moderated the panel, and asked the heavyweight legends their thoughts on various topics…

LOS ANGELES, California—On Friday in Los Angeles, heavyweight legends Riddick Bowe, Earnie Shavers, Michael Spinks, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Buster Douglas, and Gerry Cooney gathered at a media roundtable during the lead-up to Saturday’s showdown between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.

Showtime’s Jim Gray moderated the panel, and asked the men their thoughts on various topics.

Regarding his recollections on fighting the all-time great Muhammad Ali, Shavers said, “He was a good friend, first of all. I fought him in ‘73 and ‘77. He had a lot of speed, a great jab, but very, very powerful.”

Lauded for his knockout power in his day, Shavers was asked about Deontay Wilder’s heavy hands.

Lennox Lewis discussed his famous bout with Vitali Klitschko, and what it’s like to be down on the scorecards—does a fighter doubt himself, feel panic?

Lewis said, “If you’re in a fight, you’re concerned because if you go back to your corner and they go, ‘You lost that round,’ that’s when a panic sort of sets in.

“I had to go out there with a different mindset to win the next few rounds [versus Klitschko]. I wasn’t boxing that fight for it to go the distance. I was boxing for it to go a short distance. And it did.”

Buster Douglas discussed his career and what his enormous upset win over Mike Tyson did for his life.

“Having a strong amateur background is what helped me overcome a lot of obstacles in my professional career,” he said. About the victory over Tyson: “It changed my life in a great way, because I was now the heavyweight champion of the world: a childhood dream come true. To top that was seeing my two kids being born. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. That would be just outside of being heavyweight champ, it was a great accomplishment for me.”

Holyfield talked about the modern American heavyweight division, and what’s changed since he was active.

“Boxing has sort of fallen off because the amateur program started fading. I think at one point in time, every great big guy was from the United States, because we had a very good amateur program.

“When you’re a kid, you don’t know if you’re gonna get big. But I was told I could be heavyweight champion when I weighed 65 pounds. I said, ‘But I’m eight.’ The man said, ‘But you ain’t always gonna be eight.’ And he was right. In life, when you start at a young age [in boxing], you’ll grow.

“I think you’ve got more kids in boxing today who start when they get big, moreso than growing up as an eight-year-old kid, boxing. So when I became a heavyweight, I had the skills to compete with the big guys. Because the amateur program hasn’t been too great in America, it kind of killed the big guys.

“Now we’ve got another guy, Deontay Wilder—he don’t have as much experience as we did, but he’s got a lot of power. And I think that’s what people want to see.”

Gerry Cooney was asked about what it was like for him being appointed by others as “the next Great White Hope,” and whether that added additional pressure to him.

He laughed, “They sent my saliva away and found out my grandfather’s mother was African American, so it was a lie!”

He continued, “I had six or seven kids I grew up with, and I had never heard about racism or stuff like that. In 1981, I knocked out Kenny Norton 54 seconds into the first round. I think something hit me there and I relate to Tyson Fury; I got scared. I started drinking, I started messing around with some recreational drugs, and I think that was the end of my career when I knocked him out. I forgot to keep my focus.

“I know Tyson Fury has lost 150 pounds, he put down his drugs and alcohol—but is it long enough to catch up to his brain? The reason why he picked up the drugs and alcohol was because something was wrong and he couldn’t figure it out. So has he had enough time to figure it out?”

Lewis also discussed what the view of Fury is in the United Kingdom.

“The view is he’s a man who stepped up. The gauntlet was thrown and he stepped up for the British side to challenge Wilder. Deontay came to England to challenge Anthony Joshua, Joshua never answered the call, so Tyson Fury answered the call.

“About [Fury’s] problems, sometimes problems can be good. To lose the heavyweight championship, we all know how it feels to lose it. And we all know how hard it is to gain it back. Fury’s lost it, and now he wants it back.

“So I see him sacrificing by going to camp, losing the weight, saying to himself, ‘This is something I lost and I shouldn’t have. Now I’m gonna regain it.’

“That’s where I think his head’s at. He wants to get it back, wants to prove everyone wrong, and now he’s in the position to do that.”

The Hall-of-Famers discussed their thoughts on the Wilder vs. Fury fight scheduled for tomorrow, December 1, at 9pm ET/6pm PT on Showtime pay-per-view.

“A couple years ago, Fury fought Cunningham, a cruiserweight, who dropped him (Fury) with a right hand,” said Cooney. “He wasn’t even known as a puncher. Wilder is a devastating puncher, and when he catches you, he’s gonna take you out of there.

“I think Wilder will find the spot. We’ve gotta see how he stands up to that. I gotta pick Deontay Wilder—he’s gonna find the spot on Tyson Fury’s jaw. I think he’s gonna knock him out somewhere between three and six rounds.”

Douglas said, “I think it’s a great fight between two competitive fighters. I’m picking Deontay Wilder in eight rounds.”

“I feel that Deontay is very patient. I think people think if he don’t get [Fury] then he’s not gonna know what to do. But he’s a thinker. He’s the type of guy that takes chances. When people take chances, they win. He’s one of those people who takes chances, so he’ll find a way to win.”

Said Lewis, “I think it’s gonna be a great fight. Wilder has a terrific right hand. If it lands, not many people can stand up to it.

“I also think you can’t hurt what you can’t hit. Tyson Fury is not an easy person to hit. He’s 6’9” and he’s all over the place, so I don’t think he’s gonna catch up with him early. If he catches him with a right hand then he may go, but Fury has a lot of movement and boxing ability so it’s gonna be difficult to catch him.”

Lewis refused to make a specific pick, saying, “Deontay Wilder early; Tyson Fury late.”

Michael Spinks said, “I thought it was a pick ‘em, may the best man win. I don’t know who’s in the best shape. Fury’s been out of the ring for two years, so I was thinking less of him and more of Wilder. But it’s a pick ‘em.”

“He’s from Alabama, I’m from Alabama,” said Shavers. “So I’m gonna go with Deontay.”

Bowe said succinctly, “Deontay Wilder. He’s gonna hit him and he’s gonna go to sleep.”

Check out more of Caryn’s work at http://www.CarynATate.com and follow her on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 02:59pm, 12/01/2018

    Lucas McCain… Liston was described as a giant compressed into a 6’1’ frame. No doubt Sonny Liston was a large man, especially back then,  but in today’s game he would be a small fry in the heavyweight division. Liston’s muscular physique certainly made him appear larger. In some of his earlier fights Liston barely eclipsed the 200lb mark. I like Marciano, but I agree that Liston beats Rocky every single time. Cleveland Williams and Shavers were “farm boy” strong.  MMA fighters, Matt Hughes and Brock Lesnar were farm boy strong with the addition of weights and steroids. haha. Now that is a nightmare.

  2. Lucas McCain 11:49am, 12/01/2018

    M-M, I believe Cleveland Williams also built himself by baling hay.  A monster in the pre-roid days.  As for Liston, you might say by breaking rocks, but that wouldn’t be fair.  He had power and size that comes largely from nature.  (Foreman famously testifies to Liston’s amazing strength.)  Ten years earlier, he would have had a very long reign, but then we would have been denied Marciano, who was a marvel for his size.

  3. OU812 10:35am, 12/01/2018

    The Grump aka “Your Name”  hating again. Mistakes happen. That is why pencils have erasers. IF you want to find out what Shavers said so bad then GOOGLE IT.

  4. Your Name 09:53am, 12/01/2018

    “Lauded for his knockout power in his day, Shavers was asked about Deontay Wilder’s heavy hands”  But then you don’t tell us what he said—

    Come on, you’re a professional.

  5. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 08:57am, 12/01/2018

    Michael Spinks and Buster look pretty haggard. The rest look like they are holding up pretty good. Father Time and Mother Nature do a number on all of us.

  6. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 08:46am, 12/01/2018

    Lucas McCain… Shavers did put away 6’5” Roy Williams who towered over Earnie. Shavers had a huge set of shoulders and a back that looked a yard wide back in those days. Shavers said he developed that awesome power from chopping trees and baling hay, while it is also said he lifted weights.  The guy was built like a tank in his upper body for sure.

  7. Lucas McCain 08:36am, 12/01/2018

    M-M—most guys are about the same height when flat on their backs! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.)  Seems that Wilder weighed in at about Shavers’ weight, whatever that may mean.  Lean and mean or overtrained?  We’ll see.

  8. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 06:52am, 12/01/2018

    Looks like the oldest one of the “legends,” Earnie Shavers, is in better shape than the rest of them. Even Holyfield looks like he put on a few pounds. Earnie still has those wide shoulders even at this stage of the game. Still the “Acorn” looks small next to guys like Bowe, Douglas, Cooney and Lewis. Imagine the 6’ 210lb Shavers standing next to Tyson Fury.

  9. Lucas McCain 03:56pm, 11/30/2018

    Great group photo.  Maybe it’s just the expressions on their faces, but I had trouble recognizing Lennox and Riddick (I assume they are flanking Evander, left and right respectively).  Spinks is either moping or he has a droopy mustache—hard to see in the small photo. And it’s clear Buster has his appetite back!

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