Earnie Shavers, one of the hardest punchers ever, dies at 78

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One of the biggest punchers in history is gone.

Earnie Shavers, the longtime heavyweight contender who had more knockouts (68) than most boxers have fights, reportedly died at the age of 78 on Thursday. No cause of death was reported.

A remarkable 50 of his stoppages came within three rounds, 23 of them in the first round.

Shavers (74-14-1) never reached the heights of contemporaries Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier or George Forman during a golden age of heavyweights in the 1970s, but only Foreman rivaled him in terms of power even though Shavers was only 6-feet tall and weighed around 210 pounds at his peak.

Ring Magazine in 2018 ranked Shavers No. 10 on its list of the 100 top punchers pound-for-pound in history, No. 4 among career-long heavyweights. Joe Louis was No. 1, Jack Dempsey No. 7 and Foreman No. 9.

Shavers couldn’t beat his best opponents, losing a title fight to Ali, a title eliminator against Larry Holmes and then his second and final championship fight in a rematch with Holmes. However, he hurt Ali badly in their fight and put Holmes down in their first meeting.

Ali said famously, “Earnie hit me so hard, it shook my kinfolk back in Africa.”

Holmes paid tribute to Shavers’ power by saying, “Earnie hit me harder than any other fighter, including Mike Tyson. … Being hit by Mike Tyson was like getting hit by a speeding Ferrari. Being hit by Earnie Shavers was like being hit by a Mack Truck.”

And Shavers had some important victories, including a first-round knockout of future Hall of Famer Ken Norton in 1979 that led to his title shot against Holmes. He also stopped Jimmy Ellis, Jimmy Young and Joe Bugner.

Shavers, who lived in Warren, Ohio, turned professional in 1969 and “retired” for the first time in 1983. He returned in 1987, won one fight and then retired again. He then made one more comeback in 1995, winning once and then being stopped at the age of 51 by journeyman Brian Yates.

The kind, approachable Shavers was a regular at boxing events and autograph shows after finally retiring for good.

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie