Fight #46: George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier 1, January 22, 1973, Kingston, Jamaica
I follow George Foreman on Twitter. It's a great account to follow, because people ask him questions all the time about what it was like to fight Ali, Frazier, Ron Lyle and so many other heavyweights, and George always seems to give very honest answers. From his statements, you can tell that Foreman has to this day a lot of respect for Frazier as a fighter. He confirms that Frazier was a much harder puncher than Ali, and he had a vicious mean streak as well that made him genuinely intimidating. He also says that if he and Frazier had fought 1,000 times, Foreman would have won all 1,000.
Frazier was the betting favorite going into this fight, and it's not hard to see why. He had never been beaten, and fewer than a handful of fighters had even managed to go the distance against him. In round 1 of this fight, Frazier comes right after Foreman, just like he did with Ali in their Fight of the Century two years earlier. Except I noticed something different this time around. Whereas Ali would flick that jab out, and dance around the ring, hoping perhaps to tire Frazier out, Foreman opted to just push Frazier away whenever he got on the inside. Watch the first round, he does it several times. He doesn't try to dance away. He just shoves him off, pushing him into perfect range for his left jab. And that jab is a lot harder than the one Ali had. Ali's jab was accurate but Frazier was able to take the punishment and push through to the inside. Foreman's jab is enough to crush concrete. Frazier's two fights with Foreman may have been the only two of his career where he faced a stronger puncher than he was himself.
The first knockdown doesn't finish Frazier, but the second one caused his whole body to crumple to the canvas like a plastic accordion. He falls in a way that I have seen very, very few fighters ever get up from. He gets up and is knocked down again. Three knockdowns in the first round.
In the second round, Frazier keeps trying to punch with Foreman. He gets knocked down again. At this point I can start to hear Angelo Dundee, sitting at ringside, begging referee Arthur Mercante to stop the fight. Frazier is knocked down again. He gets right back up. Frazier is knocked down a sixth time. With more people screaming that the fight needs to be stopped, Mercante finally stops the fight. When he does, Frazier is standing in a neutral corner, ready to go back out there for more punishment. I honestly wonder how many knockdowns it would have taken before Frazier would have taken enough punishment to NOT get up. We'll never know.
A couple other footnotes to this fight:
I'm not a fan of Howard Cosell as an announcer. This is maybe the most famous call in boxing history, but I'd take Jim Lampley or Don Dunphy over Cosell every day.
This fight made George Foreman the heavyweight champion of the world. He would become heavyweight champ yet again....21 years later. Still almost impossible to believe.
Here is the video of the fight.