1. GEORGE FOREMAN, fresh off an astonishing and brutal victory over Joe Frazier, made the first defence of his world heavyweight title against unfancied Puerto Rican Jose Roman on September 1, 1973. The bout was set for Nihon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan.
2. THE underdog annoyed Foreman in the build-up, belittling and insulting the champion, while promising to score the upset. The week before the fight he told reporters he would be too quick for the powerful champion, and some observers predicted that Roman’s courage could see him frustrate Foreman and last to the late stages.
3. TEN bells were rung before the fight in memory of Joe Frazier’s manager, Yancey Durham, who had passed away earlier in the week.
4. FOREMAN was led to the ring by a Dixieland band, and two Playboy bunnies presented the fighters with bouquets of flowers. Roman sang along gleefully to his country’s national anthem – a contrast to the cold stare adopted by the favourite.
5. SOME 8,000 fans packed into the Hall to see if Roman’s promises could be fulfilled. But his challenge was a disaster. Lacking the spite of his predictions, the challenger started tentatively and his jabs fell short of the target. Foreman’s desire to punish Roman was evident from the opening bell as he came out blazing.
6. FOREMAN did not stop throwing punches, many were wild and inaccurate but enough landed to bully Roman to the ropes and he collapsed on his backside under the force. Then came the controversy. With Roman on the canvas, Foreman unleashed a right hand that collided with his rival’s face. Roman’s manager Bill Daly and trainer Al Braverman – cotton buds behind his ears and a ragged combover dangling on his head – jumped on to the ring apron to remonstrate with referee Jay Edson.
7. EDSON did not count the incident as a knockdown but did not punish Foreman either. “Foreman hit him as he was going down,” the referee would explain. “By not counting and allowing Roman to get up, in my opinion that was punishment enough for Foreman. It took the play away from him. You cannot stop the momentum of a punch in the middle of a flurry unless you’re a magician. But I gave Roman eight to 10 seconds to recover.”
8. IT was not enough time for the outclassed challenger. Foreman stalked menacingly, and a looping uppercut landed flush that sent Roman down, legally this time. He got to his feet but was dazed and confused when he rose, allowing Foreman to plot the finishing blast. It came via a brutal right to the body. Roman, a crumpled mess, was counted out.
9. ALTHOUGH Roman was not expected to win, his efforts were a disappointment to the fans, some of whom paid £71 for ringside seats. Foreman – paid handsomely with a $1million cheque – was booed by fans as he left the ring. Roman called his conqueror the “dirtiest fighter in the world.” He added: “He should never hit a fellow while he is down. He pushed me down and began to hit me while I complaining to the referee.”
10. FOREMAN’S victory cleared the way for potential bouts with Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, or a rematch with Frazier. “None of them need to start screaming,” Foreman’s manager Dick Sadler said about the queue of suitors. “We’ll get to all of them in good time.”