Talking Legends: George Foreman

One thing is certain, ‘Big’ George Foreman (76-5-0, 68KO) was one of the scariest men alive in the last century, from his stone cold scowl, to the way he was built compared to other Heavyweights during his era in the 70’s, his overall cold presence, and how devastating a puncher he was. Foreman didn’t have much speed at all, especially in later years, but he hung his hat on a very unorthodox way in which he moved and threw his punches, keeping his opponents in the dark with what was to come next, and was dead on accurate, resulting in physically some of the most devastating moments embedded in our minds and in the sports history whenever the missile essentially reached its target.

While his approach was awkward, he operated behind a very educated, stiff left jab that he relied on to measure his distance, and to hide the sledgehammer right hand behind it when he wanted to fire the ol’ 1-2 combination. Foreman got away with pushing his opponents backward often, but he used it as a tactic to both show his opponent who is the stronger man in the ring, and to purposely push you right into his punching range before he tee’d off on you. There was a strange method to his madness, and he was a flat-out monster when everything clicked on all cylinders.
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Foreman picked up boxing as a means to stay out of trouble in his youth days, and he took to it quickly, ascending fast, qualifying for the Olympics and winning a Gold-Medal in 1968 having fought only 26 amateur fights in the system.

GEORGE GOLD

He became a sparring partner for the legendarily feared former Heavyweight Champion Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston, and if you were able to survive the punishment Liston administered on a daily basis, you’d pick up on some of those traits as well, and George did just that after turning pro, and terrorized opponents in the ring, as well as the rest of his contemporaries who were tuning in to his bouts.

He ran through the likes of George Chuvalo & Gregorio Peralta (2X) on his quick ascension to the top, and put himself in position to meet the man who sat atop the Heavyweight division, the dominant World Champion ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier in 1973. Two years prior, Frazier picked up a historical victory in the “FIGHT OF THE CENTURY” with career-rival Muhammad Ali who came back from his ‘exile’ trying to regain what he once had and was stripped of, however he fell short in the process via unanimous decision through 15 rounds. While Frazier was sitting on top of the skyscraper known as the Heavyweight division, Foreman came in as the monster who kicked all the pillars down and destroyed the proud, hard-nosed Philadelphia fighter, sending Frazier to the canvas an unbelievable 6 times in a 2 round span en route to the knockout victory, rendering everyone watching terrified of his blunt power.

 

Knocking out Jose Roman in his next fight, he met up with Ken Norton, who also once bested Ali in a decision. Foreman went flat out savage on Norton and tossed him around like a rag-doll, putting him away with sledgehammer shots to both the body and head, putting the future Hall-of-Famer away in the 2nd round. 


Foreman was now universally looked at as the most dominant devastating weapon in the sport, one that every one of his contemporaries feared, all but one…and that man happened to be none other than Muhammad Ali. Upon hearing of this news of Ali targeting and securing a fight with George, many people had serious concern and fear for Ali’s health, given that he appeared to be slowing down, Foreman beating Ali’s two rivals that bested him in a destructive fashion, and the punching power that Foreman was bringing with him night in and night out. They took this fight to the Motherland (Africa), and fought in 󠁡󠁯󠁺Zaire in front of an anxious crowd in an outdoor arena. In somewhat of a shock to George, Ali virtually had the entire country on his back in support.

October 30th, 1974, the ‘RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE’ was under way, and it was evident from the beginning that Foreman tried to bomb him out of there with his power, or at least to gain some early respect from the iconic challenger, but Ali had his own plans, stuck in there very bravely standing in the pocket, and countering over the top of Foreman’s power shots, somewhat surprising George. As time went on, Foreman with higher degrees of success (from his vantage point at the time) was able to get Muhammad to the ropes where he planned to trap him and wail away, not knowing that Ali made a conscious effort to sit on the ropes and rely on his conditioning, mind tricks and counter-punching to get George frustrated, tired and second guessing himself.

While it was a grueling task carried out by Ali to the outright worry of his Trainer Angelo Dundee constantly screaming “Careful!, Careful Ali!!”, “Get off the Ropes!!”, by the 6th round you started to see a more subdued Foreman whose punches slowed up even more than what we were accustomed to seeing, and the action began to tame out in little increments. Ali while talking to George and instilling a bit of doubt in him started to pick up his offense a little and started finding cracks in George’s defense to exploit. While George was gassing out, Ali let off an explosion while on the ropes, spun him around and landed the picture-perfect cross on the chin that put Foreman down in front of a shocked and ecstatic crowd for the knock out loss. Once again, the man known as Muhammad Ali managed to shock the world, and Foreman was devastated at the way the events panned out.jungle

Taking roughly a year and a half out of boxing after his devastating defeat, he did have a night to himself as a series of exhibitions, where he would fight 5 guys in 1 night in early 1975, perhaps as a way to gain some confidence back, and to re-instill the fear of his punching power in the minds of the people.

Officially coming back to the ring, he met with Ron Lyle for what would turn out to be the Fight-of-the-Year in 1976. Lyle didn’t play any games and came at George with full aggression, matching him punch for punch. With both fighters hitting the canvas a total of 4 times (2 a piece), Foreman got the last laugh in what was a gut-check of a contest for Foreman in a vulnerable period of his career mentally, and knocked Lyle out in the 5th round.

Following was a re-match with Joe Frazier resulting in a very different fight stylistically, but the result was very much the same. Frazier tried to take a little out of the Ali book by moving and trying to off-set Foreman, but it didn’t work, and Foreman eventually found him in the 5th round, putting him down twice and knocking Frazier out once again. George’s next fight was against quality Heavyweight Jimmy Young. Jimmy fought an outstanding fight all around and managed to defeat George via decision in what was the 1977 Fight-of-the-Year, which at the time sent Georges career into a tail-spin, announcing his retirement from boxing. Little did we know that the man from Texas wasn’t done with this sport…

THE SECOND PHASE…
Fast forward 10 years, Foreman was a very different man, aesthetically and in the way he carried himself. Still very strong, he was no longer built like the rock he was in the 70’s, instead had a round build of generous proportions on top of muscle, bald-headed as opposed to his ‘fro that he had back in the day, and became an ordained-Minister who showcased a constant smile for the cameras, which was a stark contrast from the scowl that the public was generally accustomed to seeing in his prime. One things for sure though, as much as he differed from who he was a decade ago, he still packed some serious power in his fists, and carried that power well into his second journey in this sport.

Initially many people didn’t take his comeback bid very seriously, for credible reasoning given what was just spoken of, however the one thing you can’t count out is a mans burning desire to achieve what he sets out to achieve. Taking on about 19 fights in 2 years during his comeback bid, people stopped laughing and started rooting, even some believing in the big fella after the way he train-wrecked hard hitting respected Gerry Cooney in only 2 rounds, with one of the most devastating punch sequence knockouts that I’ve ever seen.

Next year he would get his shot once again for the Undisputed Heavyweight World Championship against Evander ‘Real Deal’ Holyfield. This fight was an outstanding one to witness, and it was full of action packed moments, with Holyfield showing out why he was the kingpin of the division at the time, and with Foreman showing relentless effort and fortitude to dish out as well as he could, along with taking some SERIOUS power punches in combination, and refusing to go down. While Holyfield won the decision, George won people over, with his support growing stronger with his backers, and Foreman even gaining fans that he never had 15 some-odd years ago. Foreman continued trying to regain Heavyweight glory taking on Champion Tommy Morrison at the age of 44, but he was out-boxed to another decision loss.
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Foreman took a little time off, and 17 months later would give it another go to become a Heavyweight Champion, this time against talented 2-division Champion Michael Moorer. For much of the night, George looked his age, looking relatively slow in comparison to Moorer who was out-boxing him in large quantity, but for whatever reason, Moorer would take sequences in which he elected to trade with the larger man. By round 9, Foreman seen himself losing virtually every round, so he stepped up the aggression. Even though many of his shots weren’t landing on the mark, you could see he was getting closer and closer, n Moorer stayed right in the pocket within Georges firing range. The 10th round came, and Big George landed a big 1-2 combination that rocked Moorer…staying where he was, Foreman fired another 1-2 which was far more devastating, and dropped Moorer immediately on his back , with everyone at home in shock, as well as the people in the stands, with the broadcast crew catatonic not knowing what to think or say. Moorer trying to get up, couldn’t make the count, and when the count was finished, play-by-play Announcer Jim Lampley summed it up best in 2 words…..“It happened!..It happened!!”, yes indeed, and Foreman after 20 years of having to bear with the shame of his defeat to Ali in the back of his head was once again the (Lineal) Heavyweight Champion of the World, and also became (at the time) the oldest fighter to win a World Title in boxing history at age 45, the impossible had happened…

IT HAPPENED
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Foreman defended his Lineal title 3 times defeating Axel Shultz, Crawford Grimsley and Lou Savarese before meeting up with Shannon Briggs. In one of the worst decisions of the decade, Briggs was awarded a unanimous decision over George, and after the fight, Foreman decided that this was a perfect time for him to wrap up his uniquely storied Hall-of-Fame career, leaving the sport in great hands. The general consensus believe that the two greatest Heavyweight eras were with the crop of the 1970’s and the crop of the 1990’s, well George (as well as Larry Holmes) could say that he fought in both decides and reached the mountain-top, doing his part to bridge the gap between the 2 generations, and he did it the best way he could, with conviction, hard work, ring presence, boxing IQ and power. Here are a list of his accomplishments.
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– 1968 Olympic Gold-Medalist
– 4X Champion (WBA, WBC, IBF, LINEAL, UNDISPUTED)
– 1X Undisputed Heavyweight Champion
– 2X Lineal Heavyweight Champion
– Defeated 7 Boxers Whom Were Undefeated
– 4 Wins Over 3 Hall-of-Famers (Frazier(2X), Norton, Qawi)
– Boasts a 89.5% Knockout Percentage (68 KO’s in 76 Wins)
– Recognized By Few As The Hardest Puncher of All-Time
– 1973 Ring-Mag Fighter of the Year
– 1976 Ring-Mag Fighter of the Year
– 1973 Ring-Mag Fight of the Year (Foreman vs. Frazier I)
– 1974 Ring-Mag Fight of the Year (Ali vs. Foreman)
– 1976 Ring-Mag Fight of the Year (Lyle vs. Foreman)
– 1977 Ring-Mag Fight of the Year (Foreman vs. Young)
– 1994 Ring-Mag Knockout of the Year (Former over Moorer)
– 1994 Ring-Mag Comeback of the Year
– Universally Recognized as a Top-5 Heavyweight of All-Time
– Longest Span Of Time Between Titles (20 Years, 1974-1994)
– International Boxing Hall-of-Fame (Inducted In 2003)
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SIGNATURE MOMENT – A TALE OF 2 CAREERS WRAPPED INTO 1…

(Young George) – In 1973 when George demolished and embarrassed legend Joe Frazier, in their 1st fight, putting Joe on the canvas 6 times in just 2 rounds for Foreman’s signature knockout victory.

(Old George) – As if there was any doubt…George at the age of 45 making the impossible happen, losing every round of the fight to an undefeated Champion, then finally laying down the boom, caught Moorer square on the chin to become the oldest Champion (at the time) in boxing history. Foreman instead of celebrating just knelt down in his corner and prayed for a couple minutes while everyone in the crowd, every one in the ring and nearly every one watching from home was either ecstatic or shocked of what transpired.
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NOTABLE WINS – Joe Frazier (2X), Michael Moorer, Ken Norton, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Ron Lyle, Gerry Cooney …..HIGHLY disputed loss to Shannon Briggs to cap off his career.

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