George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier
January 22, 1973 -- National Stadium, Kingston, Jamaica
A funny thing happened to Joe Frazier on his way to a multimillion-dollar return bout with Muhammad Ali. He met George Foreman in a match called "The Sundown Showdown." And, in a blowout as elementary as any since Jack Dempsey had annihilated Jess Willard a half-century earlier, the young challenger dissembled "Smokin' Joe" into smaller pieces in just 275 seconds.
With shoulders of a blacksmith's and arms like battering rams, Big George was unbeaten in 37 fights, 34 of those by knockouts. But common wisdom asked, "Who'd he ever beat?" and installed him as a 3-1 underdog to the supposedly invincible Frazier, winner of all of his 26 fights and conqueror of Ali. Still, Foreman thought he could do it, and that was all it would take.
At the opening bell, "Smokin' Joe" came out in his patented bob and weave. Pressing the attack, he set up shop in mid-ring, all the better to work his way under the 78½-inch reach of the challenger and throw his potent left hook. But Foreman met him head-on, never taking a backward step, and started probing at the champion's head with a left.
One of those in Foreman's corner, Doc Broadus, had scouted Frazier during his training sessions to look for secret moves. He told Foreman, "I didn't see any. He has led with his head, same as always. George, drop that hammer on him." And that's just what George did, fresco-ing him with a thunderous right to the head as Frazier waded in, head up and unprotected.
Falling base over apex, Frazier's seat had barely touched the canvas before he jumped up and once again tried to work his way back inside. But after an exchange of punches, Foreman unloaded a series of rights to Frazier's head and once again Frazier went down. Wearing the look of a man who had been eternally put upon, a dazed Frazier arose quickly. But just as quickly he was deposited back on the canvas by a howitzer shot that Foreman delivered just as the bell sounded to end the first round.
Frazier shed out for the second round, trying mightily to rectify matters by landing his left hook. But Foreman picked off the punches and, in return, landed a wood-chopping right and left to the champion's jaw, sending Frazier to the mat for the fourth time. Frazier, with powers barely those of respiration and locomotion, got up only to be knocked down yet again. Struggling to his feet once again, Foreman ran into a series of punches, punctuated by a pluperfect right uppercut. The punch lifted the fireplug form of Frazier straight up in the air, defying gravity, like a tree stump pulled out of the ground.
And still he tried to regain his feet. As he stood there, unsure of what was going on, or going wrong, referee Arthur Mercante Sr. signaled the end of Frazier's reign at 1:35 of the second round.
And to those who asked, "Who'd he ever beat?" George Foreman could answer, "Smokin' Joe Frazier."