This is an entry in an occasional series of posts looking back at the Ring Magazine Fights of the Year from 1970 to 2009.
In 1973, Joe Frazier defended his unified (WBC & WBA) Heavyweight championship against George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica. Foreman won via 2nd round TKO, knocking Frazier down 3 times in each of the first and second rounds. This fight occasioned one of the most famous play-by-play calls in all of sports: Howard Cosell’s “Down goes Frazier!”
Although the two men were close in weight, Foreman seemed much stronger throughout the fight. He employed an unusual technique, manhandling Frazier to control the distance. Most often Foreman would simply push Frazier back by the shoulders, but sometimes he would instead grab Frazier by the arms and pull him to the side. Foreman’s punches were varied: a mix of powerful –if somewhat wild — hooks and devastating uppercuts into which the occasional sharp jab was added. The hooks were strong enough to move Frazier back even when they landed on his guard.
Frazier didn’t have much opportunity for punching, but what he did throw — particularly some nice left hooks to the head — seemed to land cleanly. If he hadn’t been taking 5 punches to land 1, and if he hadn’t been trading with one of the all-time-great power punchers, Frazier’s attacks might eventually have amounted to something. On this night, however, he was never in the fight.
This fight was one of the most remarkable changings of the guard in the Heavyweight division. The only equally dominant performance by a challenger than comes to my mind was Mike Tyson’s victory over Trevor Berbick, and Trevor Berbick was no Joe Frazier. Although obviously not a competitive fight, this one has to be seen to appreciate the arrival of a true phenomenon at the peak of his ability.
1: In almost total control of the fight, Foreman takes a few shots but lands many more. He knocks Frazier down three times, twice in the closing seconds of the round. Frazier stands quickly, but is lucky to make it out of the round. The second knockdown is on a particularly brutal uppercut.
2: After taking considerable punishment from Foreman, Frazier turns and almost runs away from him in an attempt to get off the ropes; as he does so, Foreman hits him nearly on the back of the head, knocking him down. Two knockdowns later Arthur Mercante mercifully and appropriately waves off the contest. Frazier is on his feet, but he does not protest.