More than 40 spine-tingling sports broadcasts
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Down Goes Frazier!:
George Foreman Beats Joe Frazier
January 22, 1973
Disc 1; Track 14
Had Smokin' Joe Frazier been reduced to just smoke and mirrors? That was the question being asked when the world's heavyweight champion arrived in Kingston, Jamaica, to defend his crown against George Foreman, the rising young force in the division.
Just two years earlier, Frazier had been the toast of the boxing world when he had won a brutal fifteen-round decision over Muhammad Ali in a battle of two undefeated fighters that was justifiably billed as the Fight of the Century. But even in victory, Frazier looked like a beaten man. He was taken to a hospital after the fight and remained there a week.
In his two ensuing fights, against Ron Stander and Terry Daniels, Joe Frazier, though victorious, did not look as devastating as he had in the past. Still, he scoffed at those who questioned whether, at age twenty-nine, he had enough left to hold off the twenty-four-year-old Foreman, whose right hand was rapidly becoming the most feared weapon in the heavyweight division. "Down through the years, I been foolin' them all," Frazier said. "They buried me, cremated me, put me back in the ground."
Joe Frazier entered the ring that night with a record of 290 with twenty-five knockouts. Foreman's record was 370 with thirty-four knockouts. Both men also owned Olympic gold medals in the heavyweight division, Frazier's earned in the 1964 Games, Foreman's in 1968. Oddsmakers were not discouraged by speculation that Frazier was past his prime, making him a 5-1 favorite. But some experts, including sportscaster Howard Cosell, on hand in Jamaica for the blow-by-blow description, were picking Foreman.
But nobody could have envisioned what happened once the opening bell rang. It became immediately obvious that Foreman's advantages in height (6 feet 3 inches to Frazier's 5 feet 11.5 inches) and reach (78.5 inches to Frazier's 73.5 inches) were going to be critical factors. So was Foreman's mindset. Many fighters had been intimidated by Frazier's straight ahead, not-to-be-denied style. His nickname, "Smokin'," came from his tendency to burrow into an opponent and keep smoking until his foe had been consumed. But Foreman knew all about intimidating tactics. This wasn't the jovial, popular salesman and television personality of his later years. This was an angry young man off the mean streets of Houston, Texas, who could fix an evil glare on his opponent. And he fixed it on Frazier, both at the weigh-in and during the pre-fight instructions. Frazier had tried to get to Foreman by telling him, "I'm gonna sit you on the ground, George." But he got no reaction from Foreman, who was saving his reply for the ring.
Frazier came out fast, landing the first punch. He hit Foreman on the chin with a left hook, his trademark shot. There was no reaction from Foreman. Right then, Frazier knew he was in trouble. And he quickly found out how much. A Foreman combination rattled Frazier, and a right uppercut put the champion down.
And at that instant, Cosell forever immortalized this bout with three words, uttered in a screaming fashion three times in a row: "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!" Many say it was Cosell's finest moment. It was certainly one of Foreman's as well.
Frazier got up immediately from the knockdown only to be put down a second and third time before the first round mercifully ended. Each time, it was a Foreman right hand that did the damage. It was shocking to watch Frazier, the man who had withstood the best Ali had to offer over fifteen rounds, find himself unable to stay on his feet against this young challenger. Defensively, Foreman was using his tall frame and long arms to keep Frazier from getting inside and doing any damage of his own.
Thirty seconds into Round 2, Frazier went down again from a Foreman right hand. "It's target practice for George Foreman," yelled Cosell. Twice more Frazier went down, six times in all after having been down only twice previously in his entire professional career.
Finally, after the sixth knockdown, referee Arthur Mercante signaled that Frazier had had enough. The bout was stopped at the 1:35 mark of Round 2. A crowd of thirty-six thousand in Jamaica's National Stadium had seen the world's heavyweight championship dramatically change hands. "On the first right to the body I landed," Foreman said, "I saw him wince and I knew I was going to win."
Frazier could only shake his head at the beating he had taken. "I knew George Foreman was big and strong," Frazier said, "but I didn't realize he was that strong."
Both Foreman and Frazier would go on to experience crushing losses to Muhammad Ali. George Foreman lost to Ali in Zaire, Africa, in the 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle." Joe Frazier was beaten in 1974 in New York, and in 1975 in the Philippines fight labeled the "Thrilla in Manila." Still, as great as those fights were, the Jamaica battle would long be remembered after the particular blows had been forgotten thanks to Cosell's "Down goes Frazier!" Foreman and Frazier fought each other again in 1976, Foreman winning again, this time on a fifth-round knockout.
Joe Frazier retired from boxing for good in March 1981. George Foreman, after a ten-year absence from the ring, again shocked the world by knocking out Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the heavyweight championship at age forty-five, becoming the oldest man to ever win any boxing title.
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