The week prior we were blessed with Arturo Gatti and Francisco Bojado in separate bouts, but I'll gladly watch Antonio Margarito and/or Rafael Marquez headline instead of either Gatti or Bojado based on what we saw. Margarito and Marquez stuck to what got them under the HBO spotlight in the first place - stalking and hurting their opponents with the belief that they will hurt you more than you will hurt them. They did.
Gatti and Bojado used to have that same mentality. Two weeks ago they did not, and it made for a long night. Both boxers have been under the tutelage of new trainers who have changed they way their boxers used to fight, and taken away our excitement level and the fighter's marketability in the process. Here is to hoping Marquez and Margarito don't go looking for help from the likes of trainers Floyd Mayweather Sr. or James 'Buddy' McGirt anytime soon.
On the issue of match-making from last weekend, the truth is you never can be sure what you are going to get from some fighters under the bright lights. On paper, at least, undefeated Canadian Hercules Kyvelos might have belonged near, if not in, the same ring as Antonio Margarito. He held wins over Fitz Vanderpool - who gave Fernando Vargas fits in their recent fight - and had just defeated Ener Julio. Kyvelos found out that he in fact did not have the pedigree to share the ring with Antonio and is now 'wasting away in Margaritoville' after slightly more than one round of absorbing some punishing shots. In the co-feature Rafael Marquez had no trouble finding Peter Frissina who chose to stand in front of the power punching Mexican and trade. Marquez had suffered his three losses by knockout so one can only assume that Team Frissina felt that was the only way to beat him. Fortunately for us they may have overlooked Marquez' 27 knockouts in 30 wins, which now becomes 28 in 31 after just over 3 minutes of work.
Looking back to the previous week it was uncanny how we used to get the action-packed fights out of Gatti and Bojado in the way we got them from Margarito and Marquez. It has been two long years since Gatti walked through an opponent named Terron Millett in less than four rounds and shook Millett from 'contender' status to 'spoiled goods'. When Buddy McGirt got a hold of 'Thunder' Gatti that all changed. Arturo was transformed from a face-first action packed bomber to a dancing boxer who works behind the jab and looks to win 'rounds' rather than just fights.
Remember when Francisco Bojado was 9-0 with 9 knockouts and never had been past three rounds? Bojado was unprepared in his tenth fight - a combination of too much time with the girlfriend, too little time in the gym, a little bit of fame gone to his head and waistline - and lost. Since that eye-opener Bojado chose to place the blame on trainers and made a change rather that accept that if he doesn't do his roadwork he will be exposed. The once-exciting young fighter has now gone the distance in six of seven fights and finds himself under the watchful eye of Mayweather Sr.
There was a time when Arturo Gatti was the most exciting fighter in the sport, or at least the fighter who was going to be in the most exciting fights. Many felt Francisco Bojado was the one to take over that claim as he had been knocking out opponents and getting into bloody wars. Those were the good old days, or so it seems, when boxers boxed and fighters fought. Improving a few boxers and prolonging their careers is good for them, but it doesn't necessarily improve the sport.
I'm glad to finally see a heavyweight champ go out on top. It has only happened three times in heavyweight history with Jeffries, Tunney, and Marciano. Only Jeffries came back, and he lost to Jack Johnson six years after retiring undefeated. I hope Lewis doesn't make the same mistake. Who cares what writers write or what fans say? Let them call him a coward for not fighting Vitali Klitschko again, it means nothing. Any knowledgeable person knows that's not the case. And on top of that, Lewis already beat Klitschko in his last fight. So in reality he beat the next best heavyweight out there. I don't care that Klitschko was leading when the fight was stopped. He lost due to a severe cut inflicted on him from a punch thrown by Lewis.
Lewis and Vitali Klitschko fought, Lewis won, end of story. And if you are really an objective fan, you know Klitschko caught Lewis when he was in terrible shape, and still couldn't beat him. Vitali had Lewis on a night he was huffing and puffing, he was sloppy, over weight, and not focused, yet still couldn't get the win. Bottom line is Lewis beat Klitschko when he was at the end of his career, and Klitschko was at his best. Yes, I wouldn't mind seeing a rematch between Lewis and Vitali, however I don't need to see it to find out who the better fighter is, I already know, Lewis.
Hopefully Lewis can be a trend setter and make it fashionable to go out on top. In boxing this never happens in any weight division. Maybe this is why fighters don't receive the dignity and respect later in life that other athletes get. Boxing is the cruelest sport. When a fighter is at the end of his career, he usually gets humiliated in his last performances. It's not like a quarterback throwing interceptions, or a pitcher whose fast ball continuously gets jacked out of the park at the end of his career. Remember, you don't play boxing.
I think it's better that Lewis goes out under his own terms while he can. I don't want to see him get shellacked like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield. Ironically, Louis, Ali, and Holmes are the only heavyweight champs to win more championship fights than Lennox Lewis. I say lets celebrate Lewis. He was the champ for the better part of the past 10 years. He never met a fighter he couldn't defeat. He was a very versatile fighter and never embarrassed or disgraced boxing. Plus, he has plenty of money and should live like a reigning champ the rest of his life. Good for him!
There are only two negatives that can be said about Lewis, and they're not his fault. One is he is the only heavyweight champion to lose his title twice via one punch knockout while he was at or close to his prime. This will always cause some to question his chin. Two is that some will never give him credit for his defeats over the two other fighters of his generation that he is measured against, Holyfield and Tyson.
I thought Lewis beat Holyfield in both of their fights. However, I thought the rematch was very close. That being said, I rank Holyfield above Lewis in the all-time pantheon of heavyweight greats. I think at their best, Holyfield beats Lewis most likely by a decision. The Holyfield who Lewis beat was only capable of fighting in spurts. Not a good strategy to win a decision. Plus, Holyfield had a harder career and had tougher fights due to his willingness to go to war. And Holyfield is older than Lewis and fought every single fighter of their era who was supposed to be a somebody.
In regards to Tyson, I give Lewis total credit for his win over Tyson. In my opinion, Lewis at his best beats the best Tyson. Lewis is just to tall and long for Tyson, and has the power to take Tyson's heart. Lewis also never had any fear of Tyson. Lewis has to be ranked higher. He beat and fought fighters that Tyson never faced, and beat him head-to-head when they fought, and they are the same age. Oh, and Lewis never paid Tyson step aside money. Remember, Tyson paid Lewis 4-5 million $ so he could fight Bruce Seldon for another ABC title instead of defending the title he currently held. That is pure fact and cannot be rebuked. I believe Tyson always had trepidation about fighting Lewis. I can't say it like it's a fact, but I just always got that feeling from Tyson. Bottom line, Lewis ranks above Tyson and was the better fighter.
Lennox Lewis has had an extraordinary career. He scored some devastating KO's, and was even at the wrong end of a couple of them. He never avoided any fighter and always sought to fight the best. I suppose in retirement he'll gain respect and be more appreciated like Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield are, (As far as I'm concerned, Holyfield is retired and I know where his career was at its peak). Lewis, like many other past champs wasn't given his due as a fighter like Louis, Liston, Ali, Foreman, and Tyson, just to name a few while he was champ. Those mentioned were given their accolades while they were champ and were even thought to be unbeatable at some point during their title tenure.
Where does Lewis rank among heavyweight histories greatest champions. No doubt over the next few months many fans and writers will weigh in on this. I'm sure in the next week or so I'll take a stab at it. However, I can say without question, Lewis' career accomplishments rank among the top six or seven heavyweight career's of all-time. Personally, when I rank fighters on a head-to-head basis, I go pre and post Joe Louis, for many reasons. That being said, the overall career achievement's of Lennox Lewis place him among the top six or seven heavyweight champions in history. It's the head-to-head confrontations where I don't place him quite as high. But that's a story for another time.
This is a time to pay homage to the great career of Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis. I for one hope that he never comes back. He is aware that he is getting up in age and may be vulnerable if he ever fights again. Why should he risk losing to lesser fighters at the end of his career like so many other past greats have.
Lastly, Lewis is going out at the perfect time. He is recognized as the world's best heavyweight. In his last fight he beat the only heavyweight who was even thought to have a chance to beat him in Vitali Klitschko. Klitschko has demonstrated much class in his deportment since hearing of Lewis' retirement plans. I can't answer for anyone else, but as far as I'm concerned, Lewis is leaving at the perfect time, while he's on top. And I think he is too smart to ever come back
For those who want to admonish Lewis for his decision. Ask yourself this, isn't it better that he go out on his terms opposed to going out like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, or Evander Holyfield. I know their circumstances were different, but I can't help thinking Lewis is making the right move. I wish Louis would've never came back after beating Walcott in their rematch. I wish Ali would've retired after Shavers, or the second Spinks fight at the latest. Holyfield could've gone out many different times after a big win but didn't. Lewis goes out off of a big win, this will only help add to his legacy as the years go by. I wish more fighters and athletes cared about their legacy instead of milking out every last dollar. Lewis leaves with all his faculties and plenty of money. Good job Champ, and thanks for the memories!
Ask Lennox Lewis if he'd like a little more time to decide his future and he'd probably tell you he could use at least a full year to mull it over, chew it around a little before spitting out an answer.
These things take time. Money is involved. Money and reputations and logistics all have to be considered.
Something as rare as an actual, bona fide, I'm-not-takin'-it-back decision has to be carefully thought out and discussed before anything can be decided. Thirty days? For Lewis, that's the snap of the fingers, a long lunch, a short vacation.
Lewis has until March 1 to decide whether or not he's going to give Vitali Klitschko another crack at his WBC title. Going by Lewis time, that's like telling him he has to decide something in the next few minutes.
For most of us, 30 days is long enough to do just about anything short of building an empire. That's enough time to quit one job and get comfortable with another. That's enough time to fall in love, fall out of love and fall in love again. Thirty days?
To a guy on death row, that's a lifetime. To Lewis, it's a long cab ride.
Why does he have to make a decision? If he doesn't agree to fight Vitali, the WBC has threatened to strip him of his title. It's one of the funny rules of the fight game. If you don't defend your title, you can't keep it. Darn. If he just had a little more time.
For Lewis, the real decision seems to be more a question of whether or not he fights again rather than who he fights. He's been teasing us with retirement since he beat Klitschko last June, though some of us feel he's been semi-retired for the last two years. Do the math and he's fought only twice in over two years. That's not a world champion, that's a guy working part-time.
The heavyweight champion of the world used to be a busy guy who was easy to find. He was always drawing a big crowd, attending ribbon cutting ceremonies, giving commencement addresses, standing behind a cause he believed in. And two or three times a year, he actually climbed into a ring to defend his title, putting away the scissors, the crib notes and the special causes that needed his attention.
His day job was fighting and all the other things were just something to do between fights.
With Lewis, fighting is an annual event. He climbs into the ring about as often as he has a birthday. And if he does decide to give Klitschko a rematch, that fight won't happen until this summer, or another three or four months down the road.
Three more fights and the AARP will be trying to recruit him.
The thing is, if Lewis doesn't want to fight anymore, we can probably learn to live with the disappointment. And now would seem like a good time to break the news to us. The speculation of what he is going to do has grown stale and the questions have all become tired. It's time for him to either climb back into the saddle, or to put the old nag out to pasture.
I don't really care which it is, I'm just tired of waiting for the horse.
We all remember how they came out the box with a classic battle between Marco Antonio Barrera and Kennedy McKinney in February of 1996 at the Great Western Forum. It was a magnificent fight that captured the essence of the sport and made Barrera, then a relatively unknown Mexican before the fight, into a star. From there the 'Boxing After Dark' franchise came back with other memorable slugfests like Arturo Gatti's come-from-behind and off-the-canvas win over Wilson Rodriguez and Junior Jones resurrecting his career against the storied Orlando Canizales- on the same card.
There was a certain mystique regarding this show. Every time 'Boxing After Dark' was on, you'd get a war. The fighters knew that if they wanted to get to the real lucrative paydays of HBO's 'Championship Boxing' series, they'd have to go through the gauntlet of 'B.A.D.' There would be no soft touches on this series, you either proved you were ready for the big leagues and big money or a 'Not Ready for Prime-time Player'.
And even then, established fighters like Barrera would go through grueling slugfests against the likes of Erik Morales in 2000. There were no slouches 'after dark', no easy mandatories to hide behind or 'house' fights, here. Just real fights.
Well, it looks like things have changed on our favorite series. This past Saturday night, two world class Mexicans, WBO welterweight king Antonio Margarito and IBF bantamweight titlist Rafael Marquez would get soft touches on the latest edition of 'Boxing After Dark'. How soft? Well, neither fight made it out of the first minute of the second round. And trust me, these fights weren't exactly Hagler-Hearns. Margarito and Marquez couldn't have been in softer if they faced Mr. Whipple.( You remember him, right? He was the guy in the Charmin commercials back in the day).
Some in the industry had derisively dubbed this show, 'White Guys Can't Fight'- although Gatti and Micky Ward have disproven that stereotype. What they should have called this show was 'Assault and Battery' because that's exactly what took place in both fights.
First it was 'Sweet' Pete Frissina's turn on the guillotine and although he was game, he was painfully over-matched. He did actually land a few solid punches on Marquez, who in the past has had a soft, vulnerable chin, but as soon as the tall and angular Marquez started to get some extension on his powerful punches, Frissina would hit the deck hard. The end was inevitable and it would come quick as the talented Mexican- who's brother is IBF featherweight champion Juan Manuel- would put away Frissina in the second round.
HBO killed some time by interviewing Marquez and then unveiling a new segment featuring their 'unofficial, official' Harold Lederman in an email Q and A session. But HBO could only stall for so long, eventually, they would have to go to their second execution.
Kyvelos, a Canadian, who was well protected on his way up to a 21-0 record and a number ranking in the WBO would be facing Margarito, who is rapidly becoming one of the best welterweights in the world after some early losses as a teenager in the mid-90's. Now, Margarito is good, but he was made to look like a Mexican Tommy Hearns as he blasted Kyvelos out in two easy rounds. No, knocking out Kyvelos was no 'Herculean' task.
Afterwords as the HBO announcing crew wrapped things up, both Jim Lampley and Emanuel Steward would try to put a positive spin on things by stating that they had witnessed two of the world's best fighters ply their trade and build their reputation. Which is partly true, but this is HBO, the subscribers to this network pay for a certain level of prizefight- not these horrible mismatches. There is no doubt that Margarito and Marquez are talented fighters, but fights of that magnitude belong on ESPN2 or Telefutura- not HBO.
Larry Merchant was blunt when he labeled what his network put on the air as 'junk' and stated, correctly, that both Mexicans were capable of fighting anybody, but on this night had fought nobody. It couldn't have been said any better.
'Boxing After Dark' was not a vehicle for mismatches or 'house' fights- the house in this case was Bob Arum, who promotes both Mexicans- but fighters of Margarito's and Marquez's ability to showcase themselves in real tests so that they could eventually move on to bigger and better things. The philosophy that was once the hallmark of 'B.A.D' is being ignored and the product is suffering, and has been for awhile now.
The telecast which started at 9:45 p.m. on both coasts( tape delayed out in the west coast) was over and done with by 10:30. That's a 45 minute telecast, which saw less than four complete rounds of boxing. Take away the interviews and all the other fluff, you could have fit in an episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' or 'Sex in the City' within that time frame.
And you know what? Right now, those shows are about the only things paying for on HBO.
Imagine how I felt when I saw this headline on Fightnews.com: " Vanda Held, Not Charged" Well it turns out that Matt Vanda who was held by St. Paul, Minnesota authorities for 48 hours for possession of methamphetamine, hallucinogenic mushrooms and $12,000 in cash, was let go.
Silly me, I thought it was for the robbery that was perpetrated by him and his people against Sam Garr a few weeks back on national tv.
I love how so many now say they knew Foreman was going to demolish Frazier before their 1973 title fight? And there are quite a few of you. No Way! I lived through that period, and I'm telling you nobody thought Foreman had prayer-one versus Frazier, nobody. Like him or not, there was only one person who thought Foreman was going to beat Frazier, Howard Cosell. That's right, not one fighter, retired great fighter, boxing writer, or broadcaster thought Foreman was going to win other than Cosell. And it's documented on tape.
I have the ABC archives footage where Cosell is holding court with the boxing/sporting press and tells Barney Nagler of the daily Racing Forum that he thinks Foreman is gonna kill Frazier. Cosell goes on to tell Nagler that Frazier took a bad beating in the Ali fight and that he has basically retired mentally from fighting. Cosell went on to say Frazier's only interested in making lousy records and soaking up the stardom he's gained from defeating Muhammad Ali.
Other big time writers were at this gathering while Cosell took an informal poll among them, and some great former ex-champs as well. Guys like Dick Young, Dave Anderson, and Red Smith were all in agreement that Foreman is a sitting duck for Smokin Joe. Ex-greats like Dempsey, Tunney, Walcott, Graziano, and Pep are some of the ex-fighters who Cosell polls for a pick. Everyone of them agrees with the writers and all like Frazier in a big way. Back then retired champs used to go to and care about the big championship fights.
Look, I'm not putting Foreman down, I think he is an all-time top three or four heavyweight champ. However, going into his fight with Frazier, Foreman's record was viewed with the same disdain as the record of Shannon Briggs' was viewed while he was undefeated. Another words, he had many impressive knockouts, but who did he really knockout? Would anyone have picked Briggs to beat Tyson two fights removed from Michael Spinks. The answer is no and Hell no.
Tyson looked so-so after Spinks when he fought Bruno. Yet nobody would've taken Briggs to beat Tyson if he fought him after the Bruno fight, despite his size and knockout record. The same thing applies with Frazier and Foreman. Although Frazier looked so-so versus Daniels and Stander after he beat Ali. Nobody thought he would lose to a big wild swinging fighter like Foreman. After Frazier defeated Ali, some were hailing him as possibly the greatest heavyweight champ in history. Frazier's rep after the first Ali fight was every bit as hyped as Tyson's was after Spinks, if not more.
Just look at Foreman's record going into the Frazier fight. Who'd he fight that would even be mentioned in the same sentence with an undefeated Frazier? Not a single fighter. No way was there anybody who spoke out that thought Foreman would beat Frazier other than Cosell.
At the time it was thought that Frazier matched up better with big fighters. It was said he could get under their jab and work the head and body with his left-hook. Frazier is often accused of being slow. This was mainly because he was most often measured against his Nemesis, Ali. Compared to Ali, every bodies hands look slow. The fact of the matter was that Frazier had extremely fast hands, especially on the inside. Frazier didn't have a good conventional straight right hand. However, he had a dynamite right to the body.
Foreman was thought to be slow and ponderous heading into his title fight with Frazier. His punches were wide, he had no attack plan, and had questionable endurance. His chin was also a huge question mark at that time, and even his punch was questioned by some. Looking back now we know his chin is one of the great heavyweight beards in history. His pure strength and power are virtually unmatched in heavyweight history. All these things are now well documented, but they weren't heading into his first fight with Frazier.
In October of 1972, three months prior to fighting Frazier, Foreman stopped 3-14 Terry Sorrell in two rounds. It's a wonder that Foreman was only 3-1 underdog versus Frazier. Going back to the beginning of Foreman's career, there is nothing, including his Olympic Gold Medal to suggest he had anything for Frazier.
In August of 1969 Foreman fought tough Chuck Wepner in his fourth pro bout. Wepner at the time was 18-4-2, but was more known for being one of Joe Frazier's toughest sparring partners. Although Foreman should be commended for taking on a toughie like Wepner in only his fourth fight, there was nothing he showed that in a couple years he'd be ready for the reigning champ, Frazier.
Two fights after beating Wepner, Foreman stops journeyman 7-11-1 Cookie Wallace. After beating Wallace, he stops "Big" Vernon Clay in two rounds who is 8-3 at the time. In his next fight after Clay, he is taken the distance for the first time as a pro by 13-15 Roberto Davila. In his next 3 fights he stops Leo Peterson, Max Martinez, and Bob Hazelton who were a combined 12-16. Next he is taken the distance by 19-22 Levi Forte. Think anybody is yet whispering, "Frazier better beware of George Foreman?" Hell NO! It wasn't even an after thought!
After going the distance with Forte, Foreman stops 3-4 Gary Wiler, 10-14-3 Charlie Polite, and huge Jack O'Hallaran who is 18-5-2. After stopping these three trial horses, Foreman fights long time light heavyweight contender Gregorio Peralta 78-5-8. Peralta has just recently started to fight at heavyweight. Peralta takes Foreman the distance and loses a unanimous decision. Foreman won this fight on youth and sheer brute strength. The Foreman-Peralta fight was on the under card of the Frazier-Ellis championship fight. My father took me to this fight in February of 1970. The fights were at Madison Square Garden. I remember leaving after the Frazier-Ellis fight, nobody, but nobody was even considering that Foreman was ever going to be the one to take Frazier's title shortly down the road. In fact it was just the opposite. Most felt that Foreman would be nothing more than a heavy bag with eyes if ever matched with Frazier.
In Foreman's next five fights, he scores 5 KO's. The only name even worth mentioning of those five is George "Scrapiron" Johnson 14-15-4. Johnson is known for taking Frazier to a decision, and losing to Jerry Quarry. After scoring the fifth KO in his previous five fights, Foreman fights tough contender George Chuvalo 59-15-2. Chuvalo at this time is four years removed from losing a 15 round decision to former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, and three years removed from being stopped by current champ Joe Frazier. Going into the Foreman fight, Chuvalo has never been knocked off his feet. Something no fighter ever accomplished. Foreman goes onto stop Chuvalo in three rounds, one less than it took Frazier.
After beating Chuvalo, Foreman stops highly touted at the time Boone Kirkman 22-1 on the Frazier-Foster under card. Next, trial horses Mel Turnbow 8-10, and Stamford Harris 15-23-1 become Foreman knockout victims. After Harris, Foreman fights a rematch with Gregorio Peralta 83-6-8 and stops him this time in the 10th round in Oakland California. Again, there has not been one mention at this time that Foreman could possibly be the fighter to dethrone Frazier. Not in the paper, not in the Boxing publications, not by anybody?
After stopping Peralta in the rematch, Foreman wins nine in a row by stoppage. Among those victims are fighters who at best can be considered trial horses/journeymen. Fighters such as LeRoy Caldwell 11-8-1, Luis Pires 18-7-1, and Miguel Paez 42-16-13. In his next fight after Paez, and his last fight before challenging Frazier, Foreman destroys the infamous 3-14 Terry Sorrell in two rounds.
Of all the fighters and so called contenders that Foreman fought on the way up, only Chuvalo fought for the heavyweight title. And that was four years prior to him facing Foreman. As much as I love the finished version of George Foreman, the pre Frazier version of him really didn't beat any fighter of note other than Chuvalo. Foreman who held a gaudy 37-0 (34) record heading into the Frazier fight had a record comparable to the undefeated Shannon Briggs. No way anybody but Foreman, his handlers, and Cosell thought Foreman could win, let alone actually pull it off.
I know Frazier's manager and trainer Yank Durham had reservations about Joe facing George, but all managers worry about their fighters opponents. Durham basically thought it made more sense for Joe to face Ali again. Yank knew that Joe had a style match up over Ali, the money was four and a half times better, and even if Joe lost, it was doubtful that he would be stopped. He also figured a Frazier defeat by Ali would make them 1-1 versus each other, so he knew the third fight would always be there.
Remember, nobody knew better than Yank that Frazier hadn't really spent too much time in the gym after he beat Ali. Although Durham felt Foreman would be tough for Frazier, I know for a fact he never felt certain that Frazier wasn't going to come out on top. Foreman was thought by many to be made for Frazier, not the other way around. Now, there are plenty who say, Oh, I knew Frazier was all wrong for Foreman and that Foreman was going to take him apart. None of you were saying anything close to that on January 21 1973.
Heading into his bout with Joe Frazier, Foreman hadn't fought anybody close to an undefeated Frazier. There wasn't one opponent on Foreman's record to suggest he is Frazier's conquer, not one. Frazier was the solid favorite and deservedly so. The only thing that made Foreman seem formidable vs Frazier, other than his size, was him being an Olympic Champion with a lot of knockouts and maybe Frazier would look past him. Even at that, it was perceived that Frazier didn't have to be at his best to defeat Foreman.
The bottom line is that I don't believe any of the Monday morning quarterbacks who now claim that they knew back then that Foreman matched up favorably vs Frazier. It was still questioned at the time as to whether or not Foreman had the power to really hurt Frazier and keep him off. The only one who picked Foreman over Frazier publicly was Howard Cosell. And of course Foreman himself.
In fact Foreman said in an interview with Boxing Illustrated before he fought Frazier that he considered himself lucky to be the guy getting Frazier after the Ali fight. George stated that Frazier is not the same fighter who defeated Ali. He said Frazier is ready to be taken in his next fight. Bottom line is I don't believe those who say they knew Foreman was a lock to beat Frazier. I just don't believe you. If you said it, you said it to yourself. There was nothing on Foreman's record to even suggest he deserved being a 3-1 underdog. Only Cosell picked Foreman publicly. And of course Foreman. He said it in Boxing Illustrated, and he did it in Jamaica.
I'm sure all those who picked Foreman in 1973 to beat Frazier, are the same guys who just knew that Leonard was going to upset Hagler in 1987. You guys were a ghost in 1973, just like in 1987. I know some guys picked these upsets, but not nearly as many who now claim so. Oh, you must be the same guys along with Ron Borges who picked Holyfield to take Tyson apart before their first fight in 1996?
Just for the record, I picked Frazier to knock Foreman out in 1973. My feeling was that Frazier would be able to push Foreman back and work him over. I picked Leonard to decision Hagler when they fought in 1987. I felt Leonard's speed and chin would keep him on his feet through the 12th round. I felt Leonard was being overlooked. Leonard waited for the right time to challenge Hagler, after his tough fight with John "The Beast" Mugabi. I figured if Leonard was on his feet at the end, he'd get the decision. Lastly, I picked Holyfield to beat Tyson originally when they were slated to fight in November of 1991. However, when they fought in November 1996, I picked Tyson. So I was wrong on the actual fight. I always knew Holyfield at his best was better than the best Tyson. But, Holyfield looked awful in losing to Bowe in their third fight, and struggling with Czyz in his last fight. The only reason why Tyson agreed to fight Holyfield in 1996 was because he thought it was safe. We all did. Even though I have no doubt Holyfield was better than Tyson, I didn't think the 1996 version was. And neither did anyone else other than Borges?
Hasim Rahman is in desperate "need" of a win. It has been nearly 3 years since The Rock landed 'the shot heard around the world' and knocked heavy heavyweight King Lennox Lewis from his throne in South Africa. Lewis, of course, had been rubbing elbows with Julia Roberts and George Clooney on the set of 'Oceans Eleven' and assumed he could drop-in, drop the bomb on Rahman, and fly out of town, belt intact. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and Lewis found the lack of training, high-altitude of Brakpan, and heavy right hand of The Rock to be more than he had bargained for.
Since dropping that bomb Rahman has been on the receiving end of three losses and a Draw. In their rematch a fit and focused Lewis disposed of Hasim the way he was supposed to the first time around, and then Rahman was outworked by both aging Evander Holyfield and Johnny Ruiz. Between those two losses the Baltimore native got the raw end of a decision when the judges ruled his second fight with equally blase David Tua to be a Draw. Regardless it has been a long, long time since the carnival in Carnival City and The Rock has to be wondering when his next win will come. Taking on career journeyman Al Cole may look like an easy opportunity to do so, but the possibility that Rahman slips and falls is a legitimate fear.
"Ice" Cole will come into the March scrap with a 34-12-3 record, but his recent run of 3-8-2 is the reason he is getting this date with Rahman. Still, Cole is more than capable of pulling an upset if Team Rahman doesn't have their charge motivated and focused on the task at hand. Similarly, David Izon found the Ice too slippery and was out-hustled on his way to losing to Cole a year ago in what was supposed to be a filler fight for Izon. It isn't that easy to make a case for Rahman being much better, if at all, than any of the fighters Cole has been in with recently during his current run of bouts.
As Cole eases into his 40th birthday he has challenged, and lost to, the who's who of fighters needing a litmus test while staying active. The likes of Lance Whitaker, Sherman Williams, Juan Carlos Gomez, Jameel McCline, David Bostice, Corrie Sanders and Kirk Johnson come to mind. The questionable work-rate of Rahman is what makes this fight interesting. Cole fought to a Draw with Kirk Johnson the first time the two met as Johnson just didn't do enough to win, and didn't help his cause with several point deductions for repeated low blows.
While Al "Ice" Cole may not be a threat to any title, he certainly will expose you if you haven't done your roadwork. The better fighters of the upper-middle class often get taken late into the night by Cole and the deeper the fight goes, the more slippery it gets.
Four years later they faced each other again for the third and final time. Only this time Ali was the undisputed champ and the fight wasn't in the United States. This one was called the "Thrilla In Manila", although the fight didn't take place in Manila. It was actually at the Arenetta County Coliseum in the Quezon City in the Philippines. But it wouldn't have sounded right, Ali going around saying I'm gonna get the Gorilla in the Quezon City. So the city of Manila was adopted for promotional reasons.
What is lost in the Ali-Frazier trilogy is that there was a second fight between them that took place on January 28th 1974. Only this time neither fighter held the title and it was simply referred to as super fight II, with Ali's NABF title on the line. This fight is usually lost in the shuffle for two reasons. One, it wasn't for the heavyweight title, and two, it wasn't as gruelling or physically damaging to the fighters as their first and third fights were. The rematch between Ali and Frazier is often slighted as not being a good fight, but it was. Blow-by-Blow commentator Don Dunphy, who called the live telecast of all three fights between Ali and Frazier actually says two or three times during the fight that this one is being fought at an even faster pace than their first fight was. If Ali-Frazier II was measured by today's standards, it would qualify as a great fight. The fact the it is sandwiched in between fights I & III is why it is overlooked.
Although this fight gets lost between fights one and three, there were some things happening around it that made it compelling. At this time in January of 1974, George Foreman is the undisputed heavyweight champion and is one year removed from his two round demolition of Joe Frazier. Foreman, 39-0 (36) is about to go into training for his upcoming title defense against third ranked contender Ken Norton.
Over the past 33 months since Frazier's decision victory over Ali, the fighters have taken different paths. After Frazier defeated Ali in March of 1971, he toured abroad with his singing group "Joe Frazier and The Knockouts". At this time Frazier is on top of the boxing world and basking in the glory of handing Ali his first defeat as a pro. Since beating Ali, Frazier fought just four times and wasn't anywhere near close to the shape he was in for Ali when he weighed 205. In those four fights Frazier weighed 215 for Terry Daniels, 217 for Ron Stander, 214 for George Foreman and 209 for Joe Bugner. Frazier went 3-1 in those fights stopping Daniels' and Stander, was stopped by Foreman, and decisioned Bugner.
Since losing to Frazier, Ali fought 13 times going 12-1 in those fights. His loss was to Ken Norton in March of 1973. Six months later he fought Norton again and won a very close decision. Over those 33 months, Ali's weight fluctuated between 212 and 221. During this time Ali has fought all the top contenders and was virtually trying to take away all potential Frazier opponents, in order to force Frazier to fight him again.
The main reason the rematch between Ali and Frazier took so long to make was because they couldn't come to terms on the money. In the first fight Ali and Frazier split a 5 million dollar purse guarantee. Frazier said that he only agreed to those terms because Ali hadn't lost the title in the ring and still had a legitimate claim to the championship. He also felt that since he had defeated Ali in their first fight and was the undisputed champ, he should get the bigger percentage in the rematch.
On the other hand Ali felt that since he was the draw, and most were coming to see him, then he should at least get a split. Ali went on to say that he has been fighting and beating all the top contenders and his fights were being shown all over the world on close circuit TV. Opposed to Frazier whose fights with Daniels and Stander, who weren't mandatory challengers, were shown for free on CBS. The Foreman fight was shown via closed circuit, and the Bugner fight was a delayed CBS broadcast.
By the fall of 1972, all negotiations between the Ali and Frazier camps fell through. So in October of 1972, Frazier signed to defend his undisputed title against undefeated second ranked contender George Foreman for 850,000$. This was a fight that Frazier's manager and trainer Yank Durham was very leery about making. Yank thought Foreman was a bad match-up for Frazier. As history proved, Yank couldn't have been more right. However, Joe insisted on the fight and told Yank to make it, so Yank put it together. That's right, Frazier turned down splitting six million with Ali and accepted 850,000 to face Foreman. On the night of January 22 1973, the 3-1 underdog Foreman took Frazier apart in five minutes and became the undisputed heavyweight champion. On July 2nd 1973, Frazier decisioned the 6th ranked Joe Bugner in his first fight after losing to Foreman. One month later, Frazier's manager and trainer Yank Durham suffered a stroke and died. Durham was much more than just his trainer and manager, he was his confidant and Joe considered him a father figure.
Two months after Frazier defeated Bugner, Ali got revenge against former Frazier sparring partner Ken Norton and won a hard fought split decision, thus clearing the was for Ali-Frazier II. The hype for Ali-Frazier II had all the histrionics as Ali did all he could to sell the fight. Frazier dedicated the fight to the memory of Yank, and Ali promised to do to Frazier this time what he should've done the first time. During the countdown to their rematch, the press was all over the fight, but nothing close to the anticipation of the first one. At this time Foreman is the boss of the heavyweights, and deemed unbeatable by most historians and writers. On top of that Frazier is now 30, and Ali is 32. Regardless of who comes out on top this time, neither Ali or Frazier are thought to have a chance against the 25 year old champ, Foreman.
Just as the countdown to the fight was winding down, two things happened that plastered the fight all over the sports pages. The first thing was both Ali and Frazier appeared on the Dick Cavett show on Tuesday night January 22nd. Both Ali and Frazier were on the show for the entire hour and a half. The show ran a piece where BBC talk show host Mike Parkinson went to Frazier's training camp and watched him prepare for the fight, while Cavett went to Ali's Deer Lake PA training camp and watched Ali train. After playing the clip of both fighters at their training camps, both Ali and Frazier fielded questions from Cavett and Parkinson, and some of the studio audience. This is where the infamous picture was taken of Ali and Frazier holding up Cavett between them, and Cavett saying he felt like the worlds biggest Oreo cookie.
During this broadcast, Ali brutalized Frazier verbally. Every time Frazier tried to talk or make a point, Ali would interrupt him and mock Frazier's diction. Ali was absolutely brutal on Frazier. During the show you could see Frazier basically bite his lip and hold his anger inside. I haven't a doubt that Frazier would've been more than happy to fight Ali right then and there. Ali just wouldn't let up. This is basically where the fight they had in the studio on the wide world of sports actually began to foster.
Four days later, January 26th, Ali and Frazier appeared on ABC's wide world of sports with Howard Cosell. The purpose of this was to replay the first fight between them and have the fighters comment on it as they watched it together. Frazier wanted to back out of this at the last moment. He was still seething over Ali's antics on the Dick Cavett show. Frazier said Ali will talk about many other topics like race, Religion, and politics, things that have nothing to do with there fight in two days. Frazier was just fed up with Ali and didn't want to see him again until they were in the ring.
Cosell convinced Frazier to do the show. He made two promises to Frazier, the first one was that he would keep the conversation strictly on boxing, and if Ali deviated off that, he'd stop him. The second one was that he would sit between them, and would prevent Ali from getting up in Frazier's face. However, when Frazier showed up, he was seated next to Ali with Cosell sitting on Frazier's left. This put Frazier on the defensive.
Through the first nine rounds of viewing their first fight, things were actually going pretty smooth. Ali didn't go off on any tangents and pretty much kept to the fight. During the viewing of rounds 1-9, both Ali and Frazier took a few shots at each other, but nothing drastic. About the middle of the tenth round, Ali pointed out that Frazier hit him on his hips a lot throughout the fight. When Frazier heard this, he said, "That's right, you went to the hospital after the fight didn't ya?". Ali said, "Joe, if I were you I wouldn't bring up who went to the hospital." Frazier said, " you don't wanna talk about that do ya?" Ali replied "Joe, I was in and out in 15 minutes, I just got my jaw x-rayed and left. You were in and out of intensive care for a month. That just shows how damn ignorant you are." Frazier took of his microphone and approached Ali and while standing over him said, "Who you callin Ignorant?" Ali jumped up and pushed Frazier's head down and said "sit down Joe!" The fighters were broken apart and Joe Frazier walked off the studio yelling "I'll see you Monday night!" This was replayed over and over again on the six and eleven O'clock news. After this, the interest in the fight was monumental. Some have inferred that this was an act to sell tickets. They couldn't be more wrong. The fight was already sold out. And Frazier was fed up with Ali's antics and wanted to take him apart. No way it was a show, at least not on Frazier's part.
The tension heading into this fight was extremely high. They actually had to flip a coin to determine who would enter the ring first and who would be introduced last. Ali won the coin toss and elected to enter the ring first and be introduced last. The winner of this fight would place himself in a position where they could achieve some lofty goals. At this time Foreman was the undisputed champ, Ali was the top ranked contender, Frazier was the second, and Ken Norton was the third.
For Frazier, this fight represented a chance to shut Ali up and prove that his defeat over him in their first fight was no fluke. A win also would've provided Frazier a chance to exact revenge on the only fighter who had ever defeated him, Foreman, and a chance to reclaim the title. This was a must win for Joe. For Ali, the Frazier rematch provided him a chance to beat the only fighter who he hadn't yet defeated in his career. It would also put him in line to fight the Foreman-Norton winner for the title, in hopes of regaining the title he was stripped of in April of 1967. It's quite possible that Ali was under even greater pressure than Frazier going into this fight. This was a fight Ali had to win in order for him to be considered one of the greats.
On Monday night January 28th 1974, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met for the second time at Madison Square Garden, the same venue were their first fight took place back on March 8th 1971. Ali weighed 212 pounds, three pounds lighter than he was in the first fight, and was an 8-5 betting favorite. Frazier weighed 209, up four pounds from their first meeting. This fight started off just as their first one did, with Ali coming out and jumping on Joe hoping to catch him cold. In the second round with 20 seconds left in it, Ali caught Frazier with a stinging left-right combo and staggered Joe. Ali tried to end it but referee Tony Perez stepped between them thinking he heard the bell ending the round. By the time he realized that there was still time left in the round, it was over. For the first five rounds of this fight, Ali moved like the 60's version of himself. During these five rounds, Ali came the closest to his pre-exile version more so than he ever did in his second career. Only in the first five rounds of the second Norton fight did he come close to moving with the same ease and purpose.
However, as was the pattern in all three fights between them, Ali slowed down and was forced to fight flat-footed. From about the middle of the fifth round on, Joe started to smoke and had big rounds in six, seven, and eight. In round nine Ali came out fast and hard, moving and stopping to plant and fight Joe scoring with three and four punch combinations. In round ten Ali needed a breather and Frazier had a good round landing solid shots to Ali's body and head. In round eleven once again Ali comes out fighting and wins a very competitive round. In round twelve Frazier senses that he needs a big round. Frazier came out trying to kill Ali at the start. Frazier lands some big hooks to Ali's chin early in the round, once again Ali's recuperative powers come to life and he finishes the last minute of the round with a big rally. When the decision is announced, Ali is the winner on all three scorecards.
No, this wasn't a great fight when measured against their first and third encounters. However, it was an outstanding fight. A fight that if it happened today, it would be held as a favorite candidate for fight of the year. Ali-Frazier II was fought at a very brisk and sustained pace. There were plenty of good exchanges throughout the course of it, with both fighters having their moments.
After the fight referee Tony Perez came under much criticism. He was chided for letting Ali grab Frazier around the head and tying him up. And he was admonished for the gaffe he pulled in breaking the fighters apart in the second round when he thought he heard the bell. This came at a time when Joe Frazier was hurt the most in the fight. The other topic that was discussed after this fight was that neither Ali or Frazier had anything to cause Foreman to lose any sleep. Almost two months later to the day, Foreman destroyed Ken Norton in two rounds in Caracas Venezuela. After Foreman's destruction of Norton, the Foreman vs. Ali drum beat started.
The George Foreman-Muhammad Ali bout of 1974 is one of the biggest and most celebrated fights in heavyweight history. However, if Ali hadn't been victorious in "The Ugly Middle Sister", this fight would have never happened. Its been 30 years since the least compelling fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier took place. It was a good fight that had plenty of high drama, despite not having a title on the line. If nothing else, it did pave the way for the Foreman-Ali "Rumble In The Jungle."
Due to the lack of any meaningful boxing news and the cancellation of some interesting fights this month, I thought I'd take a look back at some important dates and anniversaries, (Muhammad Ali turning 62 years old, Foreman's destruction of Frazier, and the 30th anniversary of Super-Fight II). All three of these events took place during an 11 day span, (17th, 22nd, & 28th) in the month of January
Boxing has not gotten off to a great start in 2004. The injury to James Toney is a big blow to boxing and the heavyweight division. Toney is one of the few fighters today who is willing to fight any and all. The Achilles is a very serious injury and it's no guarantee that Toney can recover from it 100%. If Toney cannot fully comeback from this, the heavyweight division will miss out on some very compelling matches in which he most likely would've been part of.
It's a well-earned distinction for a guy who has given so much to the game with his two-fisted, free-wheeling, barroom brawling style. In an age where boxing yearns for legitimate stars and guys who can put butts in the seats, the sport needs a dozen or so more guys just like him.
But let's get one thing straight, while Gatti is great for the game, he's not a great fighter.
No, this is no knock on Gatti, he deserves everything he gets. He fills arenas- he fought to another packed house in Atlantic City, he's a consistent ratings getter for HBO, and because of his all-action style he makes more than a million bucks a fight now. Nobody denies him all that, but too many times you hear the general media or talking heads- that cover boxing about once a blue moon- refer to Gatti as a 'great fighter' Even boxing fans who you'd think would know better refer to him with the same adjective.
Is he exciting? Yes. Is he worth the price of admission? No doubt about it. Does he epitomize everything that the sport should stand for? Absolutely.
But does all that make him a 'great' fighter?
I mean, if he's great, what does that make guys like Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, Roberto Duran, Ezzard Charles, Benny Leonard or Archie Moore. Or for a contemporary comparison, guys like Roy Jones( although he is vastly overrated in certain aspects), Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather? Those guys are great and deserve those types of accolades.
Gatti, is a gutsy fighter, who is good- not great. And there's no shame in that. This is not to demean him in anyway. I guess what I'm really try to say- and using Gatti- as an example is that the word 'great' is well, greatly overused. There are a lot of things that are 'poor', 'sub-par', 'average' and some that are merely 'OK' or 'pretty good' and 'decent'. But few things in life, are truly great.
Muhammad Ali was a great heavyweight. Lennox Lewis is very good. Willie Mays was a great ballplayer. Andre Dawson was very good. Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. Ray Allen is very good. Rakim was a great rapper. Jay-Z is very good. You see the point that I'm making?
That word has to be thrown around like manhole covers, instead today it's thrown around like pennies out of a change jar.
To put this into further perspective, while Gatti is now a jr. welterweight 'champion', he would have never challenged for the WBC crown if it was still around the waist of Kostya Tszyu, who is widely regarded as the divisions best. But to go further, he beat a guy in Gianluca Branco that wasn't even rated in Ring Magazine's top ten. And looking at the division, you wonder if Gatti is even a top five jr. welterweight himself.
Are you 100-percent sure that you'd put your mortgage on Gatti against the likes of: Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah, Vivian Harris, Ricky Hatton, DeMarcus Corley and even a youngster like Miguel Cotto?
I'm not sure I would and I'll tell you why. This supposedly 'new and improved' Gatti has made some adjustments in his style that has been very beneficial to him. But the new Buddy McGirt trained Gatti has beaten the likes of a faded Terron Millett, took two out of three grueling fights against Micky Ward and then beat an unknown Branco for the title. The trilogy against 'Irish' Micky was great for boxing, but the reality is that Ward was a fighter with a dozen losses on his record and his straight-ahead, come-forward, style was built to order for Gatti. When he faced a guy that could box a bit in Branco, he did struggle a tad.
Since his loss to Oscar De La Hoya in March of 2001, Gatti has been adroitly moved by both his manager Pat Lynch and his promoter Main Events. Using the leverage of his marketability and popularity, they have restored their fighter without facing a legitimate top five jr. welterweight.
Now, it looks like his next fight will be against Leonard Dorin in June. Dorin is a tough little nut to crack. But 'little' is the operative word. Dorin is a diminutive sort who's been described as a lightweight, with featherweight's height. And to top it off, he doesn't punch all that hard.
But it should be a great fight- yes, I said the word- because both guys make for pleasing fights and will be right in each others face all night long throwing leather in all directions.
And no doubt as we get closer to the fight, over-exuberant journalists and observers will start talking about what a great fighter Gatti is.
But remember what I told you here, Gatti is a good fighter, who's great for the game. THIS WEEK
HBO returns again this week with another edition of 'Boxing After Dark' with a doubleheaded featuring WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito defending against Hercules Kyvelos. And IBF bantamweight king Rafael Marquez is facing Pete Frissina.
I don't want to say that these two bouts are mismatches in favor of the two Mexicans, but more than one insider has dubbed this show,' White Guys Can't Fight'
Joe Mesi has been added as the opening bout for HBO when Shane Mosley faces Winky Wright on March 13th. Believe it or not, Michael Moorer is being considered as his opponent.
It was on January 22nd 1973 that I went to the closed circuit broadcast of the world heavyweight championship fight between undefeated champ Joe Frazier 29-0 (25) and undefeated second ranked contender George Foreman 37-0 (34). The fight was in Kingston Jamaica and was titled "The Sunshine Showdown." For it was on this night that I witnessed a display of punching power that I never saw before, or have seen since in the last 31 years. Remember, I didn't say the most impressive or devastating knockout. I said exhibition of punching power.
Over the last 38 years, I have seen more impressive knockouts than Foreman's stoppage of Frazier. Nunn's KO over Kalambay, Hearns' KO over Cuevas are just a couple that come to mind when recalling devastating knockouts. However, they weren't exhibitions, they were executions ending with one punch. The fact that they ended so quickly disqualifies them as exhibitions. To me, and exhibition of power must be sustained, even if for only a round or two. On any given night, a fighter like Hasim Rahman who is no more than a good heavyweight contender, as witnessed in his last fight versus John Ruiz, can catch a great like Lennox Lewis and knock him dead with one punch. That to me is not an exhibition.
An exhibition is when one fighter repeatedly devastates his opponent. It's when you know by the end of the fight that it doesn't matter how many times the beaten fighter beats the count, no doubt he'll be dropped again. Louis-Schmeling II is another great example of this. You knew that it didn't matter how many times Schmeling beat the count, he was only going down again. Tyson-Berbick is also a good example.
As much as Louis-Schmeling II and Tyson-Berbick were tremendous exhibitions of awesome punching power, they are no where close to the level of Foreman's 5 minute destruction of Frazier? At least not in my mind. As far as I'm concerned, Foreman's display of savage power is unmatched in heavyweight history. This is mainly because of who the opponent was, Joe Frazier. Many fighters have built up great KO records over the years, but how many of them own a destructive knockout over a fighter the caliber of an undefeated 29 year old Frazier. Maybe Hearns over Duran, but certainly no heavyweight. At least not in my opinion.
Over the years some have tried to perpetrate the myth that Frazier couldn't handle a big puncher. Anyone who says this either (A) has a bias against Frazier and wants to denigrate him, or (B) didn't closely follow his career. I have no agenda regarding Frazier, and I followed his career and knew many of the people behind the scenes who either managed or trained him. Over the years I've also spoke at length with the top writers who covered his career from start to finish. Maybe you recognize some of these guys, Dick Young, Dave Anderson, Hank Kaplan, Bert Sugar, Lew Eskin, Larry Merchant, Stan Hochman, Jack McKinney, Jerry Izenberg, and Dick Schapp.
The fact of the matter is Joe Frazier had a great chin. If you look at the whole picture, it is evidenced by the facts. Some point out that he was dropped by veteran contender Oscar Bonavena twice in their first fight in 1966, with an over hand right. This was a punch Frazier was sometimes vulnerable too. What most fail to mention is that Bonavena was Frazier's 11th fight in a career that wasn't even fully into it's second year. They also fail to mention that Bonavena was a ranked contender with 28 fights under his belt. Bonavena was a 211 pound piece of steel who was strong as a bull, and could also punch. No, he wasn't Foreman, but he could hit. Another thing that is overlooked is that after Frazier got up from the second knockdown there was one minute left in the round. Had Bonavena been able to put Frazier down once more, the fight would've been stopped. However, Frazier made it through the last minute of the second round and was never close to going down again in the round, nor was he hurt again during the fight.
Before fighting Bonavena the second time, Frazier fought 6'3" 230 pound Manuel Ramos in June of 1968. Ramos wasn't a great fighter by any means, but he did have a devastating right uppercut. Ramos caught Frazier with probably the best right uppercut he ever threw in his career about a minute into round one of their fight. The punch straightened Frazier up completely. However, Frazier never buckled or was close to going down and beat Ramos half to death on his way to stopping him in the second round.
Frazier and Bonavena crossed paths again two years later on December 10th 1968. This fight was at the Philadelphia Spectrum and Frazier's title was on the line. My father took me to this fight, I was 8 years old. In this fight, Frazier was in complete control for all 15 rounds. Frazier won no less than 12 rounds on all three scorecards on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Incidentally, Frazier was never hurt or shook once in the fight.
In 1969 Jerry Quarry nailed Frazier with some of the best punches he ever launched, yet Frazier was never close to being hurt or shook. Again, Quarry wasn't Foreman or Shavers, but he could hit and scored some impressive KO's in his career. Jimmy Ellis had a real good sneaky straight right hand in which he caught Frazier with coming in, yet Joe was never hurt or shook. Ellis was also the first fighter to drop Bonavena, before he was stopped by the best left-hook Ali ever threw in his career. Ali was the only fighter to stop Bonavena when he turned the trick in the 15th round of their fight in December of 1970.
On March 8th of 1971, Frazier won a gruelling 15 round decision over Muhammad Ali who was participating in his third fight after a forced 43 month layoff. In this fight Ali launched some of the hardest punches he ever threw at any fighter. This was for two reasons. First off, Frazier forced Ali to fight by applying fast and hard unrelenting pressure. Secondly, Frazier forced Ali to try and hit hard just so Ali could try and slow him down in trying to keep him off. We all know that Ali is not a great one punch banger, however when Ali planted and sat down on his punches he could hit. He was a big man who was very strong and had blinding speed. Ali beat on Frazier for 45 minutes, yet only stunned him once in the 9th round. If you doubt this, go back and watch the tape.
In their second fight, Ali rocked Frazier with a terrific right hand in the second round. Yes, Frazier was stunned and caught a break when referee Tony Perez separated them after thinking he had heard the bell ending the round. However there was only 20 seconds left in the round, no way Ali would've finished him. Plus, Ali caught Frazier with better rights after that and never shook him.
In the third Ali-Frazier fight, a 224 pound Ali hit Frazier a million times with stinging rights and uppercuts, yet never came close to putting him down. The fight was stopped after the 14th round because Frazier's eyes and face were severely swollen and he couldn't see Ali's punches coming at him. I'm sure some Frazier detractors are saying, "don't use Ali as an example for making a case for Frazier's chin." My response to that is, I'd bet everything I own that if the same Ali who hit Frazier in any of their three fights hit Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson as many times as he did Frazier, they both would've gone down and would have been stopped. I'd bet anything on that.
I've heard many say that Tyson has a great chin. I say it's no better than Frazier's, if it's even as good. Tyson was shook by Tillis, and he can't punch a lick. Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield are certainly not punchers, yet Douglas had Tyson falling all over the place in their fight. Had the ropes not held Tyson up, he would've gone down three or four times during the fight. And if you want to you use the excuse Tyson wasn't in top shape, than the same applies for Frazier in the first Foreman fight.
Neither Douglas or Holyfield ever stopped any upper tier heavyweights other than Tyson. Both Douglas and Holyfield were credited with being better punchers than they really were, only because they stopped Tyson. And remember, it was easier for fighters to compile big knockout records from the early 80's on. After Mancini killed Du Ku Kim in 1982, referee's stopped fights much quicker, opposed to the protocol in the 60's and 70's. This is evidenced by many fighters since then having high knockout percentages. Just because a fighter has a high KO percentage, it doesn't automatically mean he's a terrific puncher. The thing that counts is who you stopped, not how many?
Dempsey, Marciano, and Tyson are swarming fighters like Frazier, and are credited with having a great chin. It is often noted that neither of them took a beating or were punched around like Frazier was by Foreman. This is very true. However, other than Willard, Dempsey never faced a puncher like Foreman, and Willard wasn't Foreman. In all honesty, Marciano and Tyson also never faced a puncher in Foreman's league. Had Dempsey, Marciano, and Tyson fought Foreman of 1973-74, I could easily see them getting mauled as badly as Frazier did, if not worse. It's just Frazier's misfortune that Foreman was around during his era. Like Frazier, Dempsey, Marciano, and Tyson can only fight effectively when they push the fight. Pushing the fight vs Foreman is suicide. Something Cus D' Amato often was quoted as saying. Had Dempsey, Marciano, and Tyson faced Foreman of 1973-74, they would've had two choices. One, bring it to Foreman and get stopped, or try moving away and tiring Foreman out. Unfortunately, Dempsey, Marciano, and Tyson would've been a fish out of water if they were forced back, just like Frazier was.
Some fans question why Frazier never fought Lyle or Shavers. These fights didn't happen because both Lyle and Shavers were knocked off by Quarry on the way up to Frazier. Which of course wasn't Frazier's fault. If you were around then, you know there was never an out-cry for Frazier-Lyle or Frazier-Shavers. If ever anyone tries and pass it along that Frazier avoided Lyle or Shavers, it's not true. Shavers was stopped by Ron Stander, and Lyle was beat pillar to post by Quarry before their names could've been mentioned in the same sentence as Frazier's. Maybe they could've got lucky 2 out of 10 times vs Frazier, but if you have to pick a winner in a proposed match up between Frazier and Lyle or Shavers, I'll take all the money you have on Frazier. Lyle and Shavers could hit, but no way were they in the class of George Foreman 1973-74.
Fighters like Jeff Merritt and Blue Lewis were also good punchers, and neither of them ever fought Frazier. That is because they never made it high enough up the rankings when Frazier was on top of the division. Like in any fight involving Frazier, Joe was vulnerable in the first round, he was a slow starter most of the time. Maybe Lyle, Shavers, Merritt, and Blue Lewis could have got lucky and caught Frazier early and hurt him, but no way they finish him. And in all fairness, Shavers, Merritt, and Blue Lewis didn't have the strongest beard's. I can't see them finishing on their feet in a fight vs Frazier.
On January 22nd 1973. George Foreman took Joe Frazier apart in 5 minutes of actual fighting. Frazier was a more than tried and tested world champion. Frazier was never ever one time really hurt or close to going out in his career until his fight with Foreman. Yet Foreman had him falling all over the place after a minute and a half of fighting. Just to prove it wasn't a fluke or a lucky punch, Foreman dropped Frazier six times. Frazier got up all six times. The fact that Frazier was up all six times is also often overlooked. He was never close to being counted out, despite having no legs under him!
Foreman's destruction of Frazier is the most awesome massacre of a great fighter that I ever saw. It was definitely no fluke or lucky punch. Nobody made Frazier back off, but Foreman did. No other heavyweight destroyed another great heavyweight like Foreman did Frazier. Foreman actually damaged Frazier's legacy. And to this day, the aura of Frazier's career is severely tarnished because of Foreman. Seeing Frazier getting drilled by Foreman makes it too easy for some to envision another big puncher doing the same to Frazier. The problem with that is there has only been one Foreman. In my opinion, only Foreman could've beat Frazier so convincingly. I'm not saying Frazier is the greatest heavyweight champ in history, I'm just saying NOBODY takes him apart like George Foreman did circa 1973-74. NOBODY! Foreman ruined Frazier's image as an all-time great to some fans. Just don't count me as one of them!
It was a unanimous opinion that Vanda's split decision over Garr was flat out filthy. Despite controlling the action with his superior boxing skills and experience, Garr, would somehow drop his third straight bout. Van Sweeney would have Garr on top 97-95( still way to close if you ask me) and judges Jack Hayden( 97-93) and Butch Anderson(97-95) would have the local boy winning somehow.
Among those who had the fight a lopsided one for Garr was Teddy Atlas of ESPN2 who called the action from ringside. Atlas had the fight scored 100-92 for Garr.
" I had two even rounds, there was two rounds that were close," he said." I couldn't give them to Vanda because I thought in those rounds that Garr landed the cleaner punches even though Vanda had his moments. So I made them even rounds."
It was a confrontation we had seen many times in this sport: a well-protected local guy, who can sell a few tickets finally taking a step up in class against an experienced, grizzled veteran, thought to be on his way down. And perhaps Garr- who has faced the likes of Ishe Smith, Chris Smith, Gary Jones, James Page and Glen Johnson throughout his career- was on the down slide but he still had more than enough to out-class Vanda.
But we should have seen this coming, not only was Vanda the proverbial 'house' fighter, Minnesota is a state without a state commission.
" Jesse Ventura got rid of it when he was the governor, said that it wasn't important," said Atlas, of the grappler turned politician. The irony is dripping wouldn't you say? And Atlas was warned by a former fighter of what could- and did- occur.
" Scott LeDoux came up to me before the fight and I can only repeat what he said to me, he said,' Teddy, they have some good officials here in this state, unfortunately none of them are officiating tonight. They weren't invited'" Atlas said of the former heavyweight who is a native of Minnesota." He pretty much felt that the promoter brought his own officials in. And it was a local promoter, he has a kid that sells a lot of tickets. Obviously he did have a say in who the officials were.
" That was governed by him and it's very difficult to watch a 34 year old guy( Garr), who's lost his last two fights, who's trying to resurrect his career, comes in shape, comes with a good fight plan. From my viewpoint and other peoples too, he wins the fight, dominates the fight, does everything he needs to do in someone else's backyard with a younger kid and he gets treated like that. It's a difficult thing."
It may not have been the worst decision ever, but to Atlas it rates a mention.
" I don't think it's the most eye-brow raising but it's another one that unfortunately that's listed in the group as one where you just shake your head and you say,' This is why we need a national commission'"
And while this was not a huge event for the sport, it further erodes the publics faith and interest in the game.
" This is why fans run away for the fences because fans come up to me and say,' Y'know, I'm losing patience Teddy with your sport. I watch it and I start thinking I'm watching wrestling because it seems nothing is honest'" states Atlas, who has long called for a national commission.
But if there were to be a national organization that oversaw the sport, implemented uniformity in it's rules and regulations and had the autonomy to make the difficult decisions, just who would run it? The government? Puh-leeeeze, the government can barely run the government. If the sport is to clean up and prevent messes like this one and what going on at Top Rank, real reform and leadership must come from within the sport. Let the politicians do politics, let boxing people run boxing.
Garr, may have 'lost' the fight, but boxing was the real loser on this night. Vanda, an honest fighter, who got a dishonest verdict, did no more to win the fight than the Twins did to defeat the Yankees in the playoffs this past fall. And that wasn't lost to many of the fans in the partisan crowd on Friday night.
" There were plenty of people that came over to ringside to me saying hello and asking me what I thought," said Atlas, who ripped the decision on the air." And when I told them, everyone of them- to a man-agreed. They were gentlemen, they seemed to be knowledgeable fans, they obviously came across to me as honest fans. They were there for Vanda no doubt, but when I said what I said, they agreed it."
It's clear then, that those fans were much more honest and forthright than the judges.