Joe Louis versus George Foreman

By James Curl: Joe Louis versus George Foreman a dream match for sure, all time great versus all time great. What would a fight between the Brown Bomber and Big George Foreman be like and who would win?

Over the years, I have debated many “what if” fights with many different boxing fans. Many of the people I talk to are from a generation that does not really remember Louis or they have not studied enough to realize how good he was. The general prediction with most boxing fans I talk to is that Foreman would crush Louis.. Foreman was too big, too strong, etc. I disagree completely. While I do agree that Foreman was a strong, powerful puncher and a top ten all time great, I do not think this would be enough to beat Joe Louis. In fact, I think Louis would be the one of the few heavyweight champions to knock out Foreman and do it inside of 7 rounds.
For my research of this article, I watched the Foreman- Frazier fights and the Foreman- Norton fight in particular. I noticed that neither Frazier nor Norton possessed Joe Louis’s jab, hand speed, or combination punching. Frazier, of course, knew only one way to fight, that was to come forward. He was far less affective backing up. Frazier had no clue how to circle Foreman and particularly in the second fight rarely used his jab or right hand. The same holds true for Norton. Neither of these fighters had the necessary skills to deal with Foreman. I also watched The Louis Baer fights (Buddy and Max), the Carnera fight, and the Abe Simon fights. Louis simply destroyed these big guys and from what I have observed by watching other Louis fights, actually beat the bigger guys easier than some of the smaller faster heavyweights that he fought.

What does Joe Louis bring to the table? Joe was 6’ 1 ¾” and peak fighting weight was around 198 to 207 pounds. Joe was fast and accurate with his punches and threw great combinations. Louis was the best heavyweight boxer/puncher/counter puncher ever. Louis was also a great finisher and he possessed skills that are largely unused by today’s fighters, like glove blocking and feinting. Louis ranks at the very top as far as punching power and hand speed goes. Joe’s punching power was top notch and close if not equal to Foreman’s. He was in short the most perfect heavyweight fighter I have ever seen. Joe was at his best destroying big guys. His resume of big fighters includes Buddy bear who was 6’6” and 250 pounds. Buddy was a powerful puncher; of his 50 wins, 44 were knockouts. Buddy was also on Ring magazines top 100 hitters of all time.

Primo Carnera was another big strong guy on Louis’s record. At 6’6” and 260 pounds, Carnera was bigger than Foreman. Of Carneras’ 89 wins, 71 were knockouts. Abe Simon was another large heavyweight that Louis beat. Simon measured 6’4” and 250+ pounds. If one watches the Louis Simon fights, Abe is a massively strong looking man. Simon won his first 14 fights, 12 by knockout (10 of which were in the first three rounds). Of Simon’s 38 wins, 27 were knockouts. Last, but not least, Max Baer. Although not as massive as the other fighters mentioned, Max was still a big guy at 6’2” ½ and 210 to 220. Max is also known to have carried a powerful right hand that was good enough to flatten 53 of his 71 opponents. Compiled on this list we see that Louis fought several fighters that were bigger than Foreman and even if none of them hit as hard as Foreman, they were still big, strong, hard hitting heavyweights. Skill wise, I would give Foreman the edge over all of them and I would pick Foreman to beat all of them.

What does Foreman bring to the table? At 6’4” and 220 pounds (in his prime), Foreman was a big heavyweight. After George knocked out Frazier and Norton, he was the most feared heavyweight around. George was, and still is, a very strong man, perhaps the strongest of all the heavyweights. His knockout power is legendary. Joe Frazier said Foreman hit him harder than any other fighter. At one point Foreman’s record was 40-0 with 37 knockouts. His pro record now stands at 76-5 with 68 knockouts for a KO percentage of 89%, the highest of all the heavyweight champions. His chin was very good. He was durable and hard to knockout. Big George was only stopped once, once by Ali. Even an older Foreman in his second career was never knocked down, let alone knocked out. He had a stare that would beat most fighters before the first punch was thrown. If he were in his prime today, he would crush every heavyweight fighter put in front of him including Lennox Lewis, Tyson, and the Klitschko brothers. Foreman was at his best against Joe Frazier, an all time great and Ken Norton, who may not quite be an all time great but was damn good. Both of these great fighters were knocked out easily by Foreman and Frazier was knocked out twice. I agree with the statement made by Cus D’Amato that no swarmer type heavyweight could beat George Foreman. Many experts and historians rank Foreman very high on the all time top ten list. I have seen Foreman placed in the top five on several lists, no doubt Foreman would be the most formidable opponent the Brown Bomber ever faced.

Although I believe Joe Louis would beat Foreman, it would be no walk in the park for the Bomber. Let’s not forget that Foreman was good at a few things. You don’t become an all time great without some outstanding skills. Foreman was a killer if you came to him and forced the fight, just ask the great Joe Frazier what happens if you try to swarm Big George, but Louis was not a swarmer type fighter. Besides punching very hard, George was also good at cutting off the ring and forcing a fighter back to the ropes. Foreman forced Ali to the ropes and forced Ali to use the rope a dope, but Louis was no rope a doper and would never allow Foreman to pressure him to the ropes like Ali did. Louis was far too skilled and had a far more powerful jab to keep Foreman at bay than Ali did. Also Foreman liked to start a fight fast. This could cause some problems for Joe because Louis was susceptible to the early round knock down. But like Foreman, Louis was not easy to knock out either. Louis was never stopped by one punch and was never knocked out easily. It took Max Schmelling eleven rounds and over 50 powerful right hands to knock out a young under trained Louis. Even power punching Rocky Marciano took eight rounds to knockout a far past his prime, 37 year old Louis.
I see the fight going something like this: Foreman comes out of his corner fast and starts throwing big looping punches and a stiff hard jab. After perhaps two rounds of riding out the Foreman storm and a flash knockdown, Louis would start to back up and time Foreman coming in nailing him with his jab and right hand. Louis would, unlike Norton and Frazier, circle around George away from George’s powerful right hand. Louis would out speed Foreman in close and get inside of Foreman’s reach. Big George would be hit harder and faster than he has ever been hit in his career. Foreman lacked the speed, head movement, slipping, and ducking that he would need to avoid Joe’s Lightning fast hands. In short Foreman lacked the defense he would need to beat Joe because Foreman’s defense was his devastating offense. Foreman would think to walk right through anything Louis could throw, but in a Louis fight this would be his undoing. From rounds 3 to 7, Foreman would continually be caught with blinding pinpoint accurate combos and take a severe beating. Louis would catch the advancing Foreman with his ram rod jab and quick right hand. Louis would also work over George’s body in close and out speed big George with some of the fastest hardest combos ever thrown by a heavyweight. Sure there would be some shaky moments during the fight, Louis would be wobbled a couple of times by a few of Big George’s sledgehammer blows but Louis had the speed and skill to slip most of Georges wide punches. Louis would also use an old skill that is lost now days, Louis would pick off (parry) and block Foreman’s punches with his left or right hand and land his jab or right hand with ease on Foreman exposed chin. If George pushed Louis back (see the Frazier fights) as I have seen him do to other fighters in several fights, it would only help Louis to reset and catch Foreman coming in with his hand low and his punches wide. It’s only because Foreman has a good chin and was durable that I say the fight would last 7 rounds. Eventually Joe’s powerful punches would pound Foreman into a knockout and I don’t think it would be overly difficult for Louis to accomplish this. Louis excelled at beating bigger stronger fighters as his record shows. Louis was too fast and too skilled and had the right style to beat Foreman. Louis would drop Foreman a couple of time before George stayed down for good and end the fight on a knockout, probably by landing a quick combo almost too fast for the eye to follow and too fast for Foreman to avoid. Foreman would end up like all the big guys Louis fought, a crumpled heap on the canvas.

It’s my opinion that Joe Louis was without a doubt the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. I hope all who read this article enjoyed it and please comment.

Article posted on 23.01.2009

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