Looking Back At George Foremanís Amateur Career - And The Man Who Bested Him Twice

05.04.07 - By James Slater: I was recently reading a short piece on legendary heavyweight king George Foreman. And while I concur that the man was/is a true phenomenon from the world of sport, the piece I read was a perfect example of how George is now too highly praised among fight fans. The article erroneously gave Foreman the distinction of never having lost a fight - ANY fight - until the shock upset to The Greatest, Muhammad Ali - in 1974. According to this logic then, Big George never lost as an amateur. Not true. The young Foreman was actually defeated four times while fighting when wearing a vest..

And while it is true that George went on to achieve greatness, even as an amateur, by capturing Olympic gold, he was somewhat crude and easy to out-box in his very early days. One man who found this out was a fellow amateur boxer, hailing from Albuquerque, called Clay Hodges.

The young Foreman had his very first fight in late 1966, losing badly to a guy named Max Briggs. Briggs, from the same place as Foreman - Texas, knew too much for the green seventeen year old. Trained by ďDocĒ Broadus, George got his very first victory the following February, a win achieved by first round KO.

Foreman went on to win both the San Francisco and Las Vegas Golden Gloves, before losing for a second time, while attempting to win the National Golden Gloves in Milwaukee. Then, in early 1968, George ran into the man who would give him terrible times as an amateur. Clay Hodges out pointed the strong and aggressive nineteen year old, twice. Clay was a two-time National Golden Gloves champion, from both 1966 and í67. He was simply too skilled for the raw Foreman, who, despite hurting Hodges early in both fights, could not finish him off. George was devastated. Losing to the same man twice, in a space of less than three months, seriously dented his confidence. Who would have guessed that later on in the year George would come to world attention by winning Olympic gold in Mexico? Certainly not Clay Hodges.

But George battered Russiaís Ionas Chepulis for a TKO victory, and in doing so made his mark on the world. Later, while waving his tiny American flag - in a scene that is now famous - George made headline news. To this day, George says winning that medal was the proudest moment of his life. A pro career now loomed for the teenager, and the heavyweight championship of the
world was his destiny. Georgeís final amateur record was 22-4.

But what of Hodges? He too tried his hand at professional boxing. Unfortunately, however, he was unable to match his amateur success while fighting for money. Clay turned pro in March of 1970 and won a few fights, most noticeably a points win over future title challenger Jimmy Young. But his career was short-lived and after a stoppage loss to one Kenyatta Hockenhull, later that same year, Hodges hung up his gloves.

The Clay Hodges-George Foreman saga was a perfect example of how differing sports amateur and pro boxing truly are. For while he bested him twice in the unpaid ranks, Clay was unable to follow the man he conquered to the incredible heights the now legendary Foreman scaled. Still, Hodges certainly proved that George, despite being hugely powerful, was also beatable if one
possessed a good boxing brain. Something the next man to top Foreman certainly did. What a strange coincidence it is that this greatís original surname was exactly the same as Hodgesí Christian name!

Article posted on 05.04.2007

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