January 22, 2015
January 22, 2015

Action Images/Ed Sykes

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Original Ringside Report, January 22 1973

GEORGE FOREMAN battered the world heavyweight title away from Joe Frazier in two sensational rounds at the National Stadium and emerged as a new super-champ.

Foreman battered Frazier to the floor six times before New York referee Arthur Mercante intervened after 1min 35sec of the second.

Frazier, a 3-1 on favourite, was outgunned and manhandled by the massively muscled, 6ft 3½in challenger.

It was one of the most sensational fights in heavyweight history.

Frazier had battered his way to 29 consecutive victories while Foreman had won 37 straight, 34 inside the distance, in the clash of former Olympic champions.

But Frazier had faced the more formidable opponents, including outpunching Muhammad Ali in their Fight of the Century 22 months ago.

It was claimed that Foreman, 25 on the day of the fight, had been wrapped in cotton wool. The experts said he would fold before Frazier’s relentless hooking.

But Foreman, towering four-and-a-half inches over the chunky, tank-like Frazier, fought a cool battle and teed off as the champion came to him.

When Foreman had Frazier going he did not let him off the hook. The challenger, from Houston, Texas, wielded punches like an axe-man hacking down a tree.

Sometimes Frazier was able to bob and weave under Foreman’s scything blows. But when Frazier tried to hook coming out of a crouch he exposed his chin and was tagged.

Foreman’s punches crashed in with brain-numbing power. Every punch was like a hammer and even Frazier, renowned for his durability, could not withstand such awesome pounding.

As soon as the fight was over there was speculation about Foreman fighting Muhammad Ali in what looms as boxing’s biggest money-spinner.

Frazier says he will fight on and wants a rematch with Foreman. The new champ said his immediate plan is to have a long rest.

Strength

Foreman, 15st 7½lb to Frazier’s heaviest-ever 15st 4lb, showed his strength by pushing Joe off balance. He blocked Frazier’s hooks on his brawny arms and even when Joe did get through he failed to make much impression.

The 29-year-old Frazier showed moving pride and courage, coming off the floor to go straight back in. He tried to hurt Foreman and turn the fight around but Foreman impassively stayed with him and timed his punches to shatter Frazier’s aura of invincibility.

Frazier tried to come out smoking in the first round, snapping out fast jabs and looking to come over with the hook. But Foreman stood with him and banged back.

Foreman drove in a brutal right to the body and stepped back with a bombing left hook. Frazier looked shaken. It was the first indication of an upset in the making.

The challenger was looking dangerous but the first knockdown stunned the 36,000 crowd.

Foreman landed a long, heavy right that caught Frazier over the left ear and sent the champion sprawling.

Frazier jumped up almost at once to take the mandatory eight count and tried to fire back.

They exchanged punches with Frazier backed on the ropes. Then another right, this time a head-jerking uppercut, crashed in and down went Frazier again for a second mandatory eight count.

Frazier’s huge legs trembled disobediently as Foreman closed in to club and pound him about the head.

Finally Frazier went down again near his own corner from a right-hander. The bell rang almost immediately.

Joe’s corner helpers worked on him feverishly in the minute’s rest period, but it was now just a matter of time. Foreman could scent victory and was unstoppable.

Frazier gamely came forward at the start of the second, but it was like a suicide mission.

Foreman banged away and that thundering right hand caught Joe behind the left ear and sent him sprawling for the fourth mandatory count.

The champion did not seem to know where he was. He tried to bob and weave but Foreman was throwing tremendous punches.

Frazier tottered and Foreman left-hooked him to the floor for the fifth knockdown. Once again Frazier pulled himself off the floor to go back into the firing line, but the champ could hardly hold his hands up.

Joe reeled against the ropes as Foreman aimed punches with a cold, controlled power that was almost frightening.

Frazier sagged and Foreman hit him with a right uppercut to the jaw that lifted Frazier off the floor, and deposited him with a crash in a kneeling position on the canvas.

This was enough for referee Mercante to signal an end to what had ceased to become a boxing match. Frazier, blood pumping from a split lower lip, was on his feet but stumbling, his eyes glazed. It was all over.

Wildly-excited Jamaicans invaded the ring but Foreman managed to fight his way to Frazier’s corner to tell him: “I have more respect for you now than for any champion in history.”

Frazier replied, “Right on, George, right on.”

Joe’s crushing defeat would seem to back up the theory that Muhammad Ali’s fists took terrible toll in their classic fight, even though Frazier won the unanimous decision.

Frazier had only fought twice after beating Ali, hammering out fourth-round wins over Terry Daniels and Ron Stander, both some way removed from the top 10.

Some may argue that Joe was caught cold by Foreman, but the Frazier of pre-Ali days might have been expected to shrug off his challenger’s blows and come roaring back.

Either Frazier had been blunted by Ali or Foreman is one of the true greats – take your pick. The truth will lie somewhere between the two.

At this stage Foreman looks practically unbeatable, a dangerous and worthy champion. Only Ali, it seems, has the equipment to whip him.

Another dream match is in the making.

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