Talk about a heavyweight rematch that didn’t need to happen. Joe Frazier, never short or raw courage and bravery, if perhaps an ability to do the smart thing, for some reason believed he could avenge his 1973 bludgeoning at the powerful hands of George Foreman. So, in June of 1976, in his first fight back since the “close to death” war with Muhammad Ali in Manila, a 32 year old Frazier climbed back into the ring with the man who had famously sent him reeling six times in Jamaica.
Foreman-Frazier II, dubbed “Battle of the Gladiators,” took place in Uniondale, New York and the worn out former king from Philadelphia took another nasty thumping from “Big George.” This time, though, Joe was able to last a little longer than a couple of rounds. Just about.
Joe, sporting a new shaven-headed look (this the hairdo Foreman would adopt himself in his own, at the time unthinkable 1987 comeback) also tipped in the same as his rival, at 224 pounds. Despite this, Foreman again dwarfed Frazier and soon enough got to work beating him up. Joe stuck around for a few rounds, this the result of his moving away from George, not driving right at him as he had done in his first disastrous fight with the 27 year old Texan.
Frazier even dropped his gloves in a daring fashion. Foreman, showing patience, and also listening to boos from the crowd that seemed to hate him and love Frazier, began his demolition job in the fifth-round. Landing a combination punctuated by a thudding left hook as Joe was on the ropes, Foreman saw his man fall. Joe, bloodied, bravely beat the count but he was soon dropped again, this time by a sledgehammer right. Yet again, Joe got back up but he was done and Eddie Futch knew it, signalling that the slaughter be terminated before his warrior was.
Foreman, still haunted by what happened to him in Zaire almost two years earlier, glared into the crowd, soaking up the boos. Both men picked up $1 million but Joe should never have been placed in such serious jeopardy. Some say the peak Joe Frazier would have beaten Foreman, that Ali took too much out of him. In reality, had Foreman and Frazier fought ten times, in any year, Joe would have been wiped out each time.
Styles make fights, and never was this more apparent than when these two kings of the 1970s fought one another.