Throughout the years, there have been a number of fascinating match-ups that saw a great light-heavyweight move up and face an equally great heavyweight. But only on a few occasions did the naturally smaller man win – think Michael Spinks’ big upset over Larry Holmes, Ezzard Charles’ win over Jersey Joe Walcott, Gene Tunney’s win (or wins) over Jack Dempsey, Michael Moorer’s win over Evander Holyfield, and, to a degree, Roy Jones (a true great) win over John Ruiz (good but not great).
But more often than not, the old adage, ‘A good big man beats a good little man,’ was obeyed. Greats such as Archie Moore, Bob Foster, Tommy Loughran, and Billy Conn failed as they tried to best a bigger man, which brings us to the devastating job the great Joe Frazier did on the also great Bob Foster.
It was 50 years ago today in Detroit, when Frazier, making the first defense of the titles he had claimed in beating Jimmy Ellis (WBA and WBC belts) met Bob Foster.
Foster had been the best on the planet at 175 pounds for some time, having ruled the world since 1968. Armed with four light-heavyweight title retentions (Bob having engaged in a number of non-title bouts during this time) and a desire to try and land his lethal bombs on a bigger man, Foster challenged Frazier. Foster was 41-4 and in his prime. Frazier was 25-0 and in his prime.
What followed was a truly destructive performance by Frazier.
Frazier, often a slow starter, came out smoking in the opening round, with Foster opting to box. An interesting round. Then, in round two, Frazier’s famed left hook did its job. A crunching left to the jaw sent Foster down heavily. There was plenty of time left in the round. Foster, the taller but slimmer man, got up before being sent back down by another vicious left hand. This time Foster was counted out. The time was just:49 of round two.
Later, having been guided back to his dressing room, Foster sat down and began putting his boxing boots back on. The still-out of it 175 pounder thought he was getting ready for the fight he had just lost. This is the state a tank-like Frazier could leave a rival in. Especially a light-heavyweight rival.
Foster tried his hand against another, even bigger star heavyweight in 1972. Foster met Muhammad Ali in a non-title fight. Foster had some success, opening a cut over Ali’s eye. Indeed, Foster is the only man to have ever cut Ali in a fight. In the end, though, Ali – after faking being hurt by a Foster punch – scored the eighth round KO.
Foster was great but not great enough to beat the heavyweight greats.