It’s not the 50th anniversary of a memorable fight, but it’s pretty darn close at 49 years. It was on this day in March of 1974 when a peaking George Foreman made the second defense of the world heavyweight title; this seemingly “Big George’s” personal, you-dare-take-it-from him-at-your-own-risk property at the time.
For sure, a 24-year-old Foreman had wrecked an unbeaten Joe Frazier to take (see rip) the title in January of 1973, and Foreman had then destroyed a King named Joe, as in Roman, to retain the crown in Tokyo; this “fight” lasting less than a round. Foreman was the new Godzilla. He was unbeatable. He was invincible. Foreman was a killer.
The accomplished Ken Norton, who had twice taken the one and only Muhammad Ali to the wire; Kenny having shocked Ali and busted his jaw in their first fight, before then pushing “The Greatest” harder than hard in the rematch, was utterly wiped out by the rampaging Foreman.
The Foreman-Norton fight took place in Caracas, Venezuela and, with Ali at ringside, the new heavyweight king forced all observers to bow to his fistic supremacy, whether they were willing to do so or not. In short, Foreman, with his efficiency at cutting off the ring, with his display of punching at all angles, to head and body – with his sheer strength and aggressiveness – was a monster that was unable to be reasoned with, much less taken down.
Norton found this out the hard way, inside a couple of rounds. Foreman, accurate, out for blood, and as angry as any recently crowned world champ could be, sliced his way through a very good fighter. It was all over at bang on 2-minutes of round two.
Forman, glowering over his latest beaten prey, was never going to lose, and he knew it. But Ali, who was peppered by questions at ringside by Colonel Bob Sheridan – “how could that man (Norton) go 24 rounds with you and last just two rounds with the heavyweight champion of the world!” Sheridan demanded – knew better. Ali, at age 32 and indeed coming off two life-and-death wars with Norton, not to mention two damaging battles with Joe Frazier, found a whole new zest when tackling Foreman.
We all know what happened in Africa, in October of 1974. But on the evening of March 26, 1974, George Foreman was the heavyweight king, and he seemed set to reign for as long as he wanted to reign. Who was going to beat Foreman, 40-0(37)?
As it turned out, Ali was the only man for the job.