Our family moved to the suburbs of Toronto in the early 70’s, ending my hockey playing at St Michael’s arena. We were searching for a new team to join, closer to home, to shorten Dad’s travel. I had tried out for a couple of Scarborough clubs, Wexford initially and later caught on with a weaker Dorset Park, an unfortunate indicator that my abilities were lagging. It was during this time Dad became acquainted with George Chuvalo, also having a son my age, wanting to make a team. Dad, the always curious social butterfly and from the same country of origin as Chuvalo, found himself in the stands speaking Croatian with the Canadian heavyweight, numerous times, watching their children practice. Many years later I asked “hey do you remember talking to Chuvalo” and Dad telling me he still often ran into him in the Junction, a mid-west part of our city. “Did you ever ask him about his fight with Ali”. (Actually two fights) “Yes”. “Well what did he say?” “He said he couldn’t hit him.” “Go figure”, I thought to myself. I felt sadly for the Chuvalo family, sympathized with the sometime harsh reality of our ferocious ancestry. The characteristics needed to be great, can also destroy everyone around you.
Sylvester Stallone began showing up at a restaurant I worked in, one late summer and basically stayed for a few weeks. I served him twice, whereby he was always considerate and noticeably polite with good spirits to all our staff. In our youth, the boys in my neighbourhood loved Rocky. His scripting was a simple idea, at the right time, capturing the imagination of many. It was a decent attempt to portray man, removed of options, struggling to survive in the face of brutality.
The fascination is durability of skill and strength, while under the duress of pain. The asked unanswerable, Who was the greatest boxer of all time?
The added zeal with excitement, prejudices our belief, freezing the consciousness of an individual spirit, because we were witness. The “Thrilla in Manilla”, and the “Rumble in the Jungle”, were hands down, events of a lifetime. Criteria coalesced as if magically and the one ingredient making it spellbinding, was that Muhammad Ali was a highly intelligent athlete in a sport perceived to be for the stupid.