Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you for
being here--because you paid. Earnie Shavers always slips a
little humor into his after-dinner speeches. He wants to make
sure he earns the $1,500 to $2,000 he receives for 40 minutes of
Muhammad Ali and Don King anecdotes at fancy English dinner
Shavers never won a pro championship but still lives off the
sweet science. In addition to his speaking engagements, he runs
a boxing memorabilia business, is paid for the use of his image
in video games and greets patrons of the Yates's Wine Lodge in
Liverpool, 15 miles from his home in the small town of Moreton.
"They call the '70s the golden era for heavyweights," says
Shavers, 54, whose continuing popularity with power-loving
English fans lured him from the States last year. "So if you did
halfway decent, people always want you to do something later."
Shavers's punching power was legendary. He delivered 67
knockouts in a 73-14-1 career that saw bouts in four decades.
After winning a title decision over Shavers in 1977, Ali joked
that the shots he took had shaken up his kinfolk in Africa. Two
years later, in the seventh round of his second loss to Larry
Holmes, a wobbly and half-blind Shavers floored Holmes with a
Hail Mary blow so violent and unexpected that King leaped from
his ringside seat and stuck a cigar in his mouth lit-end first.
Unfortunately, overspending on wine, women and his Mecca, Ohio,
dream house became Shavers's Achilles' heel. When the IRS
demanded $172,043, he fell into debt. In addition, he pleaded
guilty to falsifying his '77 income tax return and served two
Shavers had to parlay his fame into cash to pay the tax man, but
not all his appearances these days are for money. He appears at
numerous charity fund-raisers and since 1987 has regularly
spoken at prisons in the U.S. and, recently, England. He tells
inmates of his own salvation at a small church in Warren, Ohio,
in '86, when, says Shavers, "The minister preached that worldly
values never pay what they promise, and I said to myself, How
well do I know."
He'll greet his final customer in January, which should give him
time to travel and see his family. He'll need it. Shavers has
eight daughters and a son, ages 13 through 35, in five U.S.
states, and is negotiating his fifth divorce. Next year he will
split time between California and England, juggling quality
family time with speaking engagements, prison visits and a book
tour for his upcoming autobiography. "The peace of mind I have
now is worth more than the money," says Shavers. "My needs are
met, so I'm happy."
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN
Ali joked that the powerful shots he took from Shavers had
shaken up his kinfolk in Africa.