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Articles of 2004

Why I Don't Believe Those Who Say They Picked Foreman Over Frazier

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First off, let me just say that I will be very blunt in my opinion and assessments in this column. It concerns former heavyweight champ George Foreman and his career prior to taking the title from undefeated champ “Smokin” Joe Frazier. I've grown tired over the recent years of so many revising history to make themselves come off smarter than they really were. I have noticed this a lot lately when the fight has been discussed. I was around at the time of the title fight between Frazier and Foreman. Although I was only 13, I followed it better and more closely than anybody.

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?

Writers Note

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?

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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