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.
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.
Written by Ross Wilson.
Published in Ross's collection, Line Drawing, Smokestack Books, Ripon, 2018.
Available from www.smokestack-books.co.uk