By Pieter Uni
In 93 professional fights, legendary boxer George Chuvalo was never knocked down. The former Canadian heavyweight champion from 1958-1979 couldn’t be felled, not by George Foreman, not by Joe Frazier, not by Mohammed Ali. But the retired boxer couldn’t win his fight against substance abuse, losing three sons to addiction.
Now a motivational speaker, Chuvalo, in partnership with the Kelowna and Peachland Boxing Clubs, will share his personal story in hopes of creating more awareness in the “Fight Against Drugs” in Peachland on Saturday and Sunday in Kelowna.
The appearances at both boxing clubs come following a visit to Mount Boucherie Secondary School tomorrow, when he takes time to speak to students in West Kelowna.
Mount Boucherie Secondary School principal John Simonsen said he believes Chuvalo’s visit will be of great value to his students.
“It is his story, he has a real story about how drug abuse has impacted his family,” said Simonsen. “This is a story kids need to hear . . . if we can get them to think about these things, it is a good thing.”
Dave Habib of the Kelowna Boxing Club, whose club will host the former boxer Sunday, agreed with Simonsen, adding that Chuvalo’s appearance is critical for those in the boxing community.
“When I work with kids, especially those in boxing who primarily come from low-income families or one-parent families, I realized that many of them will speak to me and confide in me before talking to their parents,” said Habib. “My one greatest accomplishment in the sport of boxing is that I am able to reach out and help these kids and that is why I think kids out there need to hear Chuvalo’s story.”
Chuvalo, who’s bout against Floyd Patterson in 1965 was named The Ring magazine’s fight of the year, lost sons Jesse, Georgie and Steven to drug addiction. After Jesse committed suicide in 1985, Georgie died of an overdose in 1993. Following Georgie’s death, Chuvalo’s wife committed suicide before Steven died following a drug overdose in 2004.
Chuvalo has attended over 300 schools, detention centres and various parent support groups to tell his personal story while encouraging the value of education and the importance of family and mental health.
Habib, a father of five, said that Chuvalo’s message, when heard, touches the heart.
“When you hear him speak, you feel compelled to help,” said Habib. “You realize that you need to be a shoulder to lean on, to help and listen to people and hear if they need help. And it helps you be a better person, and for me, a better parent.”
The Peachland Boxing Club will host Chuvalo on Saturday beginning at 5 p.m., with a 10-bout fight card planned following Chuvalo’s presentation. The Kelowna Boxing Club will then host a free seminar Sunday at the Parkinson Recreation Centre in Kelowna. Doors open at noon with Chuvalo’s presentation beginning at 1 p.m.