By Jim Amato

Possibly the best heavyweight to ever come out of the state of Ohio was Earnie “The Acorn” Shavers. Born on August 31, 1945 in Alabama, his real name is Earnie Dee Shaver. He attended school in Warren, Ohio and made a name for himself as a football player. Earnie was just a great all around athlete and when the boxing bug bit him, he took to it like a duck to water.

What Earnie accomplished in boxing is phenomenal but the world championship eluded him. Nevertheless in both of his failed attempts at the crown he left an indelible mark in the memory of those who witnessed the bouts. Earnie became a professional boxer in 1969. He won his first two fights by KO and dropped a six rounder to Stan Johnson. Two fights later he stopped J.D.McCauley, the uncle of future champion James “Buster” Douglas. In 1970 Shavers suffered his second loss. He was halted by future world title challenger Ron Stander. Earnie would then run off a 32 fight win streak in which he kayoed 31 opponents. Only former WBA light heavyweight titleholder Vincente Rondon went the ten round route with him.

The streak led Earnie to his first shot at the big time. In June of 1973 Shavers met former World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Jimmy Ellis at Madison Square Garden. Jimmy was still a serious contender and he was hoping a win over the red hot Shavers would put him back into the title picture. The fight started at a fast pace and Jimmy appeared to have stunned Shavers. Ellis then went after Earnie. Out of nowhere Shavers unleashed an uppercut with KO written all over it. Down went Ellis in a semi-conscious condition and he was counted out. Just like that it was over and Earnie was an instant contender. Jimmy’s astute manager Angelo Dundee said his guy got caught by a sucker punch. Whatever it was, Shavers was in the Top Ten.

In December Shavers returned to Garden to face the highly ranked and enormously popular “Irish” Jerry Quarry. The winner could be in line to fight heavyweight champion George Foreman. This time the tables were turned on Earnie. Quarry hurt him early and did not let him off the hook. Finally the referee intervened to save Shavers. In less then two rounds Earnie’s career had peaked and then collapsed. A 1974 loss to solid journeyman Bob Stallings made it appear that Shavers was just a flash in the pan. Later in 1974 Shavers drew with clever Jimmy Young. A fighter he had stopped in one round in 1972. Little did we know at that time how good Jimmy Young would become.

In 1975 Shavers met the dangerous Ron Lyle. This was one of the best heavyweight fights I’ve ever seen. Earnie had Lyle down early in the fight. Lyle arose right before the bell. He then proceeded to out punch Earnie in a classic slug fest. Finally Lyle pounded Shavers to the canvas like a man hammering a nail into a floor. It was over in round six. Surely Shavers was through. Earnie though embarked on a comeback that brought him back to the forefront of the heavyweight division. He beat the respected Henry Clark twice. The second time by a convincing knockout. He came from behind to halt the feared Roy “Tiger” Williams. He then halted Howard “Kayo” Smith in two. This led Earnie to a title shot against “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali. It was 1977 at the Garden and Ali and Shavers put on a show. Several times during the bout Earnie’s bombs rocked Ali to his very foundation. Still Ali was still Ali and he sucked it up to out score Shavers. In defeat though Earnie gained a legion of loyal fans.

In 1978 Shavers met upstart Larry Holmes. In this bout Holmes served notice that he was a future star. He out boxed and shut out Shavers over twelve rounds. Later Holmes would win the World Boxing Council version of the heavyweight title in an action packed fifteen rounder against Ken Norton. In 1979 Earnie met Norton in a title eliminator. Shavers eliminated Ken in one round.The Holmes – Shavers rematch took place later in 1979. The blueprint was the same as Larry out slicked Earnie. In round seven though lightning struck. Shavers hit Holmes with a punch that dropped him like he had been shot. I’ll never know how Larry got up after being hit like that. He did though and ended up stopping a tired and bleeding Shavers in the eleventh.

From this point on Earnie’s career began to decline. He lost to Bernardo Mercado and Tex Cobb in 1980 but both felt the effects of Earnie’s thunderous blows. In 1981 Shavers rebounded with a stoppage win over Jeff Sims. In 1982 Shavers took out the normally durable Joe Bugner in two rounds. That was Earnie’s swan song. He would drop verdicts to James “Quick” Tillis and Walter Santemore. To the credit of Tillis, he gamely arose to fight on after Earnie nearly decapitated him. A 1983 disqualification loss to the under rated George Chaplin sent Earnie into retirement.

Shavers returned four years later and then again retired. Eight years later he made and ill fated comeback. After being stopped in two rounds by Brian Yates, Earnie hung them up for good. In 89 bouts Shavers posted a sterling 74-14-1 record against the great heavyweights of the 1970′s and 80′s. He scored 68 KO’s. He had a 76.4% KO percentage. His credentials earned him the distinction as the “puncher of the century” ! Warranted ? Ask Ali, Norton, Holmes, etc…When he caught an opponent clean they did the shimmy and shake. Watch his bouts with Norton, Howard Smith and the Henry Clark rematch. Oh the man could swing !

Jim Amato

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