No man knocked Chuvalo down.

After fifteen rounds with Ali,

Ali went to hospital;

Chuvalo went dancing with his wife.

Frazier hit him like a Pontiac at 100mph.

Foreman's fist was a big Mack truck

crashing into his face at 50mph.

Chuvalo's bone structure absorbed it all

like a tower shaken to its foundations

by the tremor of an earthquake.

Out on his feet, he would wake

and go on.

It was his sons that took him down.

One, two, three, gone to addiction;

with his wife the count reached four.

In the middle of his life

Chuvalo was lost in a dark room, alone.

An old man, he toured schools,

talking in a voice remarkably clear

after all the blows endured in a long career.

Footage shows him rocking back and forth.

Tears glisten in grooves that fists and time

scored upon his skin.

Teenagers listen,

rapt by and wrapped up in

a tone warm and deep as a cradling arm.

Chuvalo, strongest, toughest of men,

gathered all that was torn inside him

and reached out to them.

Love yourselves.

Love yourselves.

Love yourselves.

Written by Ross Wilson.

Published in Ross's collection, Line Drawing, Smokestack Books, Ripon, 2018.

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