Chuvalo recalled an occasion when he saw pictures of boxers when he was inside a cigar store in the Keele Street and Dundas Street West area as a boy.
"I remember opening up the book, the magazine — I saw all these guys with the muscles, I said: 'Ooh, ooh, that’s for me!'" Chuvalo told reporters after being presented with the key to the city by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Tuesday morning.
"So I ran home and I said: ‘Mom, mom, give me a set of gloves. I want to be a boxer."
Chuvalo said his mom laughed, but eventually got him a set of boxing gloves from an Eaton's department store.
From his first fight as a 10-year-old, Chuvalo kept returning to the ring.
"I can remember, just like yesterday, when I put the grease on my face and I was thrilled at the crowd — seeing my mother in the crowd, my father in the crowd and my sister in the crowd and I remember how thrilling it was," he said.
Chuvalo said he didn’t think then that he would become a professional fighter.
But as an adult, he would end up taking on some of the toughest fighters in the world during his long career.
"I lost to Muhammad Ali, I lost to him twice, but they were both tough fights," said Chuvalo, who is now 75 years old.
"And I'm proud to say that I fought six world champions and I am proud to say that I was No. 2 in the world at one time."
Chuvalo said he was thrilled by the honour of being awarded the key to the City of Toronto.
"I'm happy as a hog in slop that I got this award, I really am," he said.