Bob Foster: A Great Light-Heavyweight Who Wanted To Be A Heavyweight

By James Slater - 05/24/2021 - Comments

Very possibly the single hardest-hitting light-heavyweight in boxing history (though many experts point Archie Moore’s way when such a subject comes up; certainly, “The Ole’ Mongoose’s” record for most KO’s scored by any pro fighter remains untouched), Bob Foster was a superb and lethal operator at 175 pounds. Tall and long-limbed, the “Sheriff” from Albuquerque ruled as light-heavyweight king for six years, during which time he successfully defended the crown 14 times.

Foster’s power was legendary, his left hook a fearsome weapon. It was on this day back in 1968 when a 26-year-old Foster became world champion.

Facing the great Dick Tiger, Foster actually had to put up a large amount of his own money, to the tune of $100 grand, to get Tiger to agree to face him.

Foster lost money but he ripped the title from Tiger, his left hook taking the Nigerian out in the fourth round in New York.

But Foster really wanted to be a heavyweight. At 6’3” and with a reach of 79-inches, Foster seemed to have the necessary physical attributes – all except weight.

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No matter what he tried, written accounts of the day say, Foster was simply unable to pack on any additional muscle; even drinking beer and gorging on huge meals didn’t see Foster add on any weight.

Foster lost 8 fights during his long career, yet almost all of these defeats came against heavyweights. Doug Jones beat him, as did Zora Folley, and Ernie Terrell – and, famously, so too did Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

After he had taken out Tiger to become light-heavyweight king, Foster fought heavyweight Charley Polite, winning by stoppage in three rounds.

The heavyweight division was where the big money was, where the glory was. Foster was all but untouchable as a 175 pounder, but it was he himself who was on the receiving end of a nasty KO when he tried his hand up a division.

Frazier took Foster apart in two rounds in their 1970 heavyweight title fight, Ali (cut for the sole time in his career), faked being hurt when the lethal light-heavyweight hit him on the chin in their 1972 NABF heavyweight title bout, before “The Greatest” turned Foster into a yo-yo, stopping him in eight rounds.

It’s not fair, but these big fights at heavyweight are what plenty of fans remember most about Foster. But the chilling KO’s Foster scored over Tiger, over Jerry Quarry’s brother, Mike Quarry, over Vicente Rondon, over Chris Finnegan, well, they are legendary displays of pure punching power.

Foster often needed just one clean shot to get the job done and go home. Indeed, if Thomas Hearns was not nicknamed “The Hitman,” the moniker would have suited Foster perfectly.

Foster never lost the light-heavyweight title in the ring, his final title fight seeing him hang onto his crown courtesy of a draw with Jorge Ahumada.

That was in June of ’74, and Foster came back a year later, winning five but being stopped in his next two. Retiring in 1978, after a second-round stoppage defeat at the hands of 6’7” heavyweight Bob Hazelton, Foster was all done at age 36.

In his prime, however, when he was fighting in his natural weight division, there was arguably no purer one-punch KO master than “The Deputy Sheriff.” Foster was ranked by Ring Magazine as the 17th greatest puncher ever, this in 2003. Foster’s KO highlight reel is quite incredible stuff.

Foster, who exited with a 56-8-1(46) record, passed away in November of 2015, aged 73.