On This Day: Joe Frazier has one final hurrah against musclebound Floyd ‘Jumbo’ Cummings

joe frazier
Matt Christie looks back on heavyweight legend's Joe Frazier's final fight

1. FIVE-AND-A-HALF years after being hammered into retirement by George Foreman, 38-year-old “Smokin” Joe Frazier returned. The venue was Chicago’s International Ampitheatre on December 3, 1981 and unknown body-builder Floyd ‘Jumbo’ Cummings was the opponent.

2. IT was supposed to be first part of a three-part master plan, constructed by promoter Bill Cooley, who hoped to secure the ageing warrior a shot at WBA heavyweight champion Mike Weaver the following year.

3. CUMMINGS was the third choice of opponent for the grand return. Contender Scott LeDoux was replaced by Monte Masters following site problems, only for Masters’ manager, Pat O’Grady, pull out his charge due to a row over pay. Given what eventually transpired, both LeDoux and Masters may have wished they’d accepted the fight after all.

4. SO in stepped perennial law breaker, Floyd Cummings. He had taken up boxing in prison after being convicted of murder, and his hopes of trying out for the 1976 Olympic Team never amounted to more than that because of his custodial sentence. But in 1979 he was freed on parole, rolled off 15 wins from 16 fights, and found himself in position to take on a living legend.

5. IT soon became clear early on that Frazier’s reactions and timing were shot, and in the opening round his glory days seemed a distant memory as he chugged into punch after punch.

6. THE 8,000-strong crowd enjoyed the second, as Frazier’s left hook thudded home and, after surviving a stormy third round, he had some success in round four. And in the fifth, a lead right from Frazier was his best punch of the fight.

7. BY the ninth round both had enjoyed some success but it was Cummings who seemed to be in control. Frazier’s blood-soaked mouth was ajar as the underdog raided for victory. Several times during the fight, Joe looked in trouble, and almost hit the canvas in the last, but hung tough to survive. Ultimately, neither man truly deserved to win this entertaining, but seriously flawed, 10-rounder.

8. AT the end, it was called a draw. Scores of 47-46 for each, and one of 46-46 failed to immediately dissuade Frazier from abandoning his comeback. “I’ll be back,” he said. Thankfully, he did not fight again.

9. REFEREE Nick Morgan said: “Jumbo nearly knocked him out. Joe’s just too old to be fighting anymore.”

10. CUMMINGS’ career struggled after the Frazier fight. He would fight five more times and lost on each occasion. His final bout, in 1983, was a seventh round loss to Frank Bruno but Jumbo remains well-known to UK fight fans for nearly dropping Bruno in the first. In 1984, he was convicted of armed robbery, and in 2002, sent to prison for life for his incessant rule-breaking.

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