TWIBH: November 18, 1970 — Frazier vs. Foster
With the recent passing of all-time great Smokin’ Joe Frazier, a plethora of tributes have poured in honoring the deceased champion’s heart and courage and his status as one of the truly great heavyweight champions. Many discussed his character and integrity, and the determination required to rise above the poverty he was born into and become both an Olympic champion and successful prizefighter.
Now there is talk of erecting a statue of Joe in his adopted home of Philadelphia where he is revered as a legend, and if no one else has put forth the suggestion, let me be the first to urge everyone there to forget attempting a realistic bust or likeness of Joe. Please, just put aside that idea; realistic sculpture is an art form evidently now beyond us for various reasons, but more to the point, the truly fitting sculptural monument for Joe Frazier has to be nothing other than a massive, imposing, and monumental left fist.
Yes, I know, something similar has already been done in Detroit with the memorial to Joe Louis. But that is a statue of Louis’s right arm and fist, appropriate since while The Brown Bomber packed dynamite in both hands, his most potent weapon was the right cross. Frazier could have shown up with his right arm in a sling and still won fights, the left hook was that crucial to his ring success. Detroit can have the right; Philadelphia should have a huge, muscled left arm, cocked at a 90 degree angle, and carved from South Carolina granite instead of cast in bronze. And next to it, an endless, big screen video loop showing Smokin’ Joe bashing a succession of opponents with possibly the best hook in boxing history.
Going into his challenge of Smokin’ Joe, Foster enjoyed a twenty bout winning streak, all but one of those victories coming by way of knockout, as well as a deserved reputation for being an incredibly powerful puncher, at least in the 175 pound weight class. Foster had already made some forays into the heavyweight division and while he came away with a few notable victories, he had also been stopped by Doug Jones and Ernie Terrell. This did not bode well for his chances against Frazier. Nor did the fact Joe outweighed him by 21 pounds.
Detroit hosted the Frazier-Foster clash, ABC’s Wide World of Sports broadcasting it to millions, with Howard Cosell providing the ringside commentary. And what the bout lacked in terms of drama it made up for in sudden violence. All suspense was gone by the end of the first round. It was clear the challenger lacked the strength to keep Frazier at bay. As Foster would later say, “You need a .45 to keep Frazier off you.”
In the second, Joe moved in for the kill. Barely a minute in the champion connected perfectly with a compact version of his famous hook, the blow almost lifting Foster off his feet before dumping him on the canvas like one of the sides of beef Frazier used to haul around when he worked in a Philadelphia slaughterhouse. Bob barely beat the count and then struggled in vain to clinch or fight back as Joe swarmed him. Then came the monster hook, thrown this time with full velocity, wide, all of Frazier’s weight on it, a freight train crashing through Cobo Hall and colliding full force with Foster’s jaw. The challenger’s head recoiled like a released spring and his whole body froze before it pitched to the floor. The count by the referee was a completely futile gesture; Foster remained on the canvas for a full minute. Considering the power of that final shot, it’s astonishing he didn’t exit the ring on a gurney.