Knock­out man Earnie Shavers hit Muham­mad Ali with a punch, but did not spare the Hol­ly­wood star.

Earnie Shavers is con­sid­ered one of the great­est punch­ers in box­ing his­to­ry. He was repeat­ed­ly ranked as the most feared punch­er, although he was nev­er a cham­pi­on. He once near­ly knocked out Sylvester Stal­lone on the set of Rocky.

How hard did Shavers hit?

The killer sta­tis­tics speak for Shavers: 68 knock­outs in his career with 74 wins. He lost a unan­i­mous deci­sion to Muham­mad Ali in 1977, but he amazed the leg­end. “Ernie hit me so hard that it shocked even my rel­a­tives in Africa,” Ali admit­ted.

Famous heavy­weight Lar­ry Holmes defeat­ed Shavers twice, but was impressed by his pow­er: “Ernie hits hard­er than any oth­er box­er, includ­ing Mike Tyson. He hit me and I fell face down on the deck with Jim­my Tillis the sax­o­phon­ist play­ing in my ears.”

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Holmes rea­soned that if Iron Mike’s punch was like hit­ting a speed­ing Fer­rari, then hit­ting Ernie’s fist was like hit­ting a truck head-on.

Despite his knock­out pow­er, Shavers was a pre­dictable box­er. Due to his low speed and endurance, he was dan­ger­ous only in the open­ing rounds, so he lost to almost all top oppo­nents. Shavers nev­er became a world cham­pi­on; the only title he won was the Neva­da heavy­weight cham­pi­on.

How did Shavers hit Sylvester Stallone?

When Shavers retired, he audi­tioned for Rocky III. Stal­lone want­ed to find a real pro­fes­sion­al for the role of Club­ber Lang. Shavers was invit­ed to audi­tion, and spar­ring was one of the stages of the cast­ing.

Ernie worked care­ful­ly with Stal­lone, with­out putting the actor under full load. But he asked him to hit him hard­er.

“He’s not a very tall guy. We sparred, I threw punch­es. He said, “Don’t hold back, Ernie. Hit me.” I said, ‘I can’t do that, Mr. Stal­lone.’ ”

I want­ed to get a job, but I thought that hit­ting hard would hurt me. But he con­tin­ued to push me, say­ing: “Come on, show me some­thing,” even hit­ting me. Final­ly, I agreed and gave him a light blow to the liv­er,” Shavers recalled.

The blow was strong, and the actor was car­ried out of the ring by an assis­tant. Shavers was not invit­ed to the film with­out giv­ing any rea­sons.

“He almost beat me to death. “I imme­di­ate­ly went to the toi­let, where I vom­it­ed,” Stal­lone lat­er recalled.