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This article was published 10/5/2011 (3782 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Former Canadian heavyweight boxing champion George Chuvalo beat 73 opponents but -- after losing two sons to drug addictions and another son and his first wife to suicide -- he's now in a tough fight to convince young people not to get into drugs.
Chuvalo, speaking to more than 200 people Tuesday on the first day of the two-day Circle of Life Gathering: Life after Addictions and Suicide, said that there's three things he often tells young people.
"Say no to smoking tobacco, no to drinking alcohol and no to taking drugs," he said, staring at the crowd the way he used to stare down opponents.
"The worst time of my life was when my son died of an overdose and my wife died (of suicide) in a four-day period... If you're tempted about drugs, think about George Chuvalo and think about what happened to my family."
Chuvalo boxed competitively from 1956 until he retired in 1979, and was the reigning Canadian heavyweight boxing champion for 21 years starting in 1958. He was ranked in the Top 10 of boxing for much of his career, losing to Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but beating Jerry Quarry.
Chuvalo is also famed for never being knocked down in 93 fights.
But in the last two decades, the Toronto product has become well known for the tragedy in his life, so much so that he described it as "my family's holocaust."
Chuvalo's son, Jesse, committed suicide in 1985 after becoming addicted to drugs he began taking to dull his chronic pain caused by a dirt bike accident. In 1993, Chuvalo's son, Georgie, died of a drug overdose, followed by his son Steven in 1996.
Chuvalo's wife committed suicide in the wake of their second son's death.
After the talk, held in the Thunderbird House on Main Street, Chuvalo admitted that speaking to people about the dangers of drug addiction isn't just beneficial to them.
"It helps me in a crazy kind of way," he said.
"They (his sons) were nice, but they took drugs. I don't blame Jesse as much because he got into it through pain, but the others...
"Hopefully, if there's a young person here who had drugs, he'll never do drugs again and if a person hasn't, hopefully they'll stay clear and make the right decision.
"If I can make a young person see the light, then my kids will not have died in vain."
Aboriginal elder Peter Kinew, an organizer of the event, whose own son took his own life, said the entire event, being put on by volunteers, is to raise awareness of suicide.
"No one really pays attention to people who commit suicide," Kinew said.
"That has to stop. We want to give the proper respect to our loved ones."
Today's day-long meeting features former NHL star Theo Fleury talking about "Don't Quit Before The Miracle Happens" at 10:30 a.m. Admission is free.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.