50 years ago today, a Monday in July in 1970, an emerging young, raw and extremely powerful heavyweight contender named George Foreman fought at The Spectrum. Foreman was then a 21 year old up-and-comer, yet in time he would go on to become something very, very special – over two distinguished ring careers.
That was all still a long, long way away, and it wasn’t yet known that the fight Foreman would have with local fighter Bill Russell at The Spectrum would prove to be George’s one and only fight in Philadelphia. Foreman once said that his portfolio would not be complete without a fight in London, England, and the same could be said of a fight in Philly; such a fight was needed as much as a fight in London, so steeped in boxing history was The City of Brotherly Love.
The Philly fight fans didn’t get to see too much of Foreman in action. A real killer in those days, George would look to take his opponent out as quickly as was possible. Foreman had destruct and destroy on his mind at a time when Marvin Hagler was not even putting on gloves. Russell, 11-7-2 at the time of the fight, had been in with some good men: Leotis Martin (a win for Russell, via split decision, this easily the biggest win of Russell’s career), Zora Folley (a draw), Mac Foster (a TKO loss) and Martin again (this time a decision loss).
But Foreman had no trouble at all with the 6’1” Russell, sending him to the canvas twice and getting the quick one-round win. Also on the card that Monday night, were Sammy Goss against Ruben DeJesus, and Augie Pantellas going up against Kid Lummumba. A ringside seat could be yours for just $8.00!
Foreman enjoyed his quick night and improved to 21-0 with 18 KO’s. He was now ranked in the top-10 by Ring Magazine. In his next fight, that August in New York, Foreman stepped up in class and fought the tough and experienced George Chuvalo. In his next fight after being crushed by “Big George,” Russell went in with former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson. This fight, held at the Philadelphia Arena, saw Russell extend Patterson into the ninth round before being stopped.
Foreman, a future heavyweight king twice over, defeated a good fighter in his one and only bout held in Philly, and in time fight fans the world over would find out how great George really was.