Two Novembers In Heavyweight History - The Great Bob Foster Vs. Frazier and Ali

By James Slater: Light heavyweight legend, Bob Foster was one of the most devastating punchers ever in the history of the 175 pound division. With a single blow, Foster could render any opponent unconscious. His KO stats are very impressive, with forty-six of his fifty-six wins coming by stoppage. And most of these stoppages were outright KO’s, with the man from the opposing corner being knocked out cold.

Fine fighters that met such a fate include: the great Dick Tiger, Mike Quarry and, in Ring magazine’s fight of the year for 1972, Britain’s Chris Finnegan. Bob actually won the light heavyweight title in the win over Tiger. He then went on to successfully defend his championship fourteen times. Clearly, there is no doubting Foster’s dominance as a light heavyweight. As a heavyweight, however, it was a different story.

Twice in the month of November - in 1970 and in 1972 - Foster was matched against legendary heavyweight champions as tried to win a title up a weight class from the one in which he was the boss. Twice he failed. Both times by way of the result he was accustomed to triumphing by - a knockout. Bob was also beaten by a number of heavyweight contenders, both before and after his ascension to the light heavyweight throne. Both Ernie Terrell and Doug Jones stopped the future light heavyweight ruler, while Mustafa Wassaja and Bob Hazelton halted the former light heavyweight king.

As for Foster’s two failed cracks at one title or another up at heavyweight, it was Muhammad Ali and, first, “Smokin’” Joe Frazier who put paid to his dream. Bob did reasonably well against Ali though, both wobbling and cutting The Greatest in his challenge for the NABF title. In fact, Foster is the ONLY man to ever inflict a cut on Ali. Against Frazier, however, the heavyweight limitations of one of the top two or three best ever light heavyweights were brutally exposed.

Fighting the pre-Ali Frazier, Foster challenged the man not yet recognised as the universal and absolute heavyweight champion. Joe had claimed both the WBC and WBA belts, but to many Ali would still have to be beaten before he was accepted as the number one, undisputed heavyweight ruler. No matter though, Bob Foster was fighting for the heavyweight titles and he wanted to win them, Ali or no Ali. Joe was the main man as far as he was concerned. The fight took place on November the 18th, 1970, and was staged at the Cobo Arena in Detroit.

The match was no contest. Joe, approaching the very peak of his fighting life, utterly destroyed the twenty-one pounds lighter man. Bob certainly had it the hard way when making the move up a division, and this was never more the case than against the threshing machine that was the 1970 model of Joe Frazier. It was all over in less than six minutes. Joe put the lights out on the game challenger in the second round and retained his two titles. Foster experienced what he himself normally dished out as he did so. It was back down to light heavyweight for the man from Albuquerque. For the time being, at least.

After yet more dominance down at 175, Bob got the heavyweight urge once again. Almost exactly two years to the day since fighting Frazier, he again bulked up and challenged a heavyweight legend. His fight with Ali wasn’t for the world title, but a win over the man who was campaigning for another shot at Frazier, having been out pointed by him in 1971, would still be massively significant. It wasn’t to be.

Although the lighter man by some forty pounds, Bob did appear to shake Ali in the eighth round, but he was then stopped in the very same round of the bout. He hit Ali with his best shot, yet was dismayed to see that Ali’s rubbery legs routine was merely a play act. How hurt Ali had been we will never know. For Foster, though, his fleeting chance had passed. Once again he moved back down a weight class, where he belonged.

Article posted on 19.11.2011

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