Fight historians have called it, ‘ the quintessential George Foreman performance.’ Fight fans ranging from young to old have said only a once-in-a-lifetime legend like a Muhammad Ali could possibly have beaten this version of Big George. It was on this day in 1974 in a fight staged in Caracas, Venezuela, when a 25-year-old George Foreman met Ken Norton in defence of the heavyweight crown the brutish Texan had so savagely taken from an unbeaten Joe Frazier the year before.
What took place frightened many active heavyweight fighters, and a whole lot of Ali fans and supporters.
Foreman actually went to the hospital around 12 hours before climbing into the ring with Norton, the world champ’s knee giving him trouble. Nobody would have guessed Foreman had any ailments whatsoever after seeing what he was able to do to Norton after less than six minutes.
On this night, Foreman, perfect at 39-0 going in, really did look like the perfectly indestructible heavyweight fighting machine. Not only was Foreman packed with power, he was fast, he was knowledgeable in the art of cutting off the ring, he was accurate with his shots, and he had a killer instinct capable of sending chills down any spine.
Norton, who had busted Ali’s jaw and had gone 24 nip and tuck rounds with “The Greatest,” was no match for the peaking Foreman. And the fact that Foreman was apparently getting better and better all the time was all the more frightening for each and every fighter who might have to one day face him. And next up it was going to be the aging, past his best Ali.
What happened in Foreman’s next fight, in Ali’s next fight, still makes us marvel today. As we know, All found a way to not only defeat Foreman, but to knock him out. Ali’s brilliance, to say nothing of his sheer nerve and bravery, was on full display in Zaire in October of 1974. Just seven months on from Foreman’s hammering of the fine boxer Ali would always have nothing but trouble with, Ali had stripped Big Bad George of his cloak of invincibility.
But could any other heavyweight have been able to do what Ali did? Or how about this one – would any of today’s heavyweights have been able to defeat the 25-year-old, 224 pound Foreman? A better question might be, would any of today’s heavyweights have been able to live with this version of Foreman, let alone beat him?
Anthony Joshua? Forget it. The phrase, like a hot knife through butter, springs to mind. Deontay Wilder? Not a chance. Wilder’s shaky chin would have been ruthlessly exposed and taken advantage of. So what about Tyson Fury? Because of his size, his boxing skill, his immense strength of character, his fighting heritage, maybe – just maybe – Fury would have had a chance against Foreman.
But could the man who was violently decked by Steve Cunningham really have lived with Foreman and his hurtful haymakers? This writer thinks not. Foreman was that good, that lethal.
It was Ali and his incredible gifts that ended a long, long Foreman reign. In short, not too many heavyweights, from any time in history, would have beaten the Foreman who crushed Norton and Frazier.
Agree or disagree?