Bob Foster: Monster Man

By Ted Spoon on April 14, 2014
Bob Foster: Monster Man
Fantasy fights starring Foster only go one way, and everything comes in on that deep voice.

“I like chasing crooks. I drive through town at eighty miles an hour, my red light flashing and my shotgun on my lap. It’s dangerous, but it’s fun…”

There’s a constant hissing whilst he talks. Oxygen is being provided through a nasal cannula. It’s getting to that stage when you complain as often as you forget, energy is nowhere, and there’s the danger of welling up if you dig too deeply into yesteryear.

In a small home at Albuquerque, New Mexico, it doesn’t work like that.

Seventy-five-year-old Bob Foster may be crossing that bridge from old age to fossilization, but time can’t dull the spirit. Whether it’s stories about Joe Frazier drinking like a fish or fracturing someone’s skull in the tenth grade for stealing a comic, Bob chuckles at things which make people gasp. Small-talkers would falter; they may ask if he’s serious. Bob would probably laugh again.

He speaks openly, fantasy fights starring Bob Foster only go one way, and everything comes in on that deep voice. His 6’3” frame now carries around 250 lbs. It’s still not huge; the same frame that used to tip the scales at 175 lbs. Bob’s more famous incarnation, long and wiry, was a grave warning.

I tend to find those sinewy horror characters more threatening; Count Orlok in Nosferatu, the hybrid offspring in Alien Resurrection, and whatever the hell that gangly thing is at the end of REC. They’re big enough to intimidate but have that arachnid quality. Take a gander over some of Bob’s photos. From standing over his prey at the weigh-in to lurching above their horizontal end, it looks like the Grim Reaper has regenerated and ditched the scythe. 

In motion too there was a stalking manner about him. The hands were held low, as if heavier than normal. A surprisingly quick jab came from the waist and back to its original position in a wink. He took his time (counterpunching was an underrated talent). Once he got opponents going it wasn’t pretty. There were a few occasions when KO was too subtle a definition. AK for “almost killed” fits better.     

Vintage Bob is branded into the history books, ominous and proud. Hard to believe he made it after so many hiccups. 

“Always keeps yourself a job.”—Ma’s wisdom.

Pulling your weight was crucial for any black youth in the 1950’s. Throw in a wife, four kids and you better start graftin’. Bob had a neat idea; he was going to fight his way into the good life. The U.S. Air Force came along after high-school, and that’s where Bob slipped those big dukes into gloves. He wasn’t half bad, winning the silver medal at the 1959 Pan Am Games. The chance to represent the Stars n’ Stripes at Rome’s 1960 Olympics Games was within reach. A brash kid called Cassius Clay got the job instead. 

Coach wanted Bob to get down to middleweight—no longer an option.

That chasm between heavyweight and light-heavy is a doozy. Today’s cruiserweight division arguably exists as a bunker; for those who concede they’re too small and for those who can’t take the heat at 175 lbs. Considering the men Bob fought, the theory of him as a flimsy heavyweight isn’t fair, but tangling with the big boys is what should have derailed his career.

1962. Two years and ten fights as a pro brought him to Doug Jones. Zora Folley was supposed to take Bob’s corner but had come down with a virus. If Bob lost there would be an ugly irony to the event; not so long ago he had taught the New Yorker. Doug was two fights away from giving Clay a good workout.

Decked in the first, that was no flash knockdown. Foster got to his feet and showed everyone there were plenty of guts inside that slim body. His blows sounded good but pinged off Doug. Whenever Foster copped one his body made different shapes. Referee Teddy Martin spotted a funny turn in the eighth and intervened. Less than two years later Bob was again saved from a hazardous Ernie Terrell. A handful of knockouts followed, including two notable scraps with Henry Hank, but Folley handed Foster his fourth defeat. This drifting contender didn’t even fight well and still won easily.

“I’ll never fight a big man again,” sighed the loser. 

Aching all over, and with little money, Bob started working at a bomb factory in a York, Pennsylvania. A year passed before he was in the ring again, thanks to a certain somebody. There were shades of Felix Bocchicchio helping “Jersey” Joe back on his feet when a bloke called Morris “Mushky” Salow guaranteed Foster a shot at the big time. The bomb job was dropped quicker than a right hand. Like Bocchicchio, Salow had some questionable ties, but that seems to be the rule for securing important fights.

The fight against middleweight legend Dick Tiger was like some kind of evil arrangement. Salow knew he was too small, Foster agreed to the point he made a prediction (four to five rounds), and the champion was the strict underdog. Coming to the end of his career and engaged in civil warfare, Tiger may not have been “all there,” but he definitely wasn’t when Foster crushed him with a left hook.

Bouncing up and down like a pogo stick, Foster knew the family unit was sorted. Once the moment of joy had subsided the light-heavyweight division had no choice but to greet its coldest champion. A few months later Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously raised their fists at the ’68 Games. Muhammad Ali was also in the news for his political stance and beliefs. Foster concentrated on smashing. 

The only problem was that desire to succeed at heavyweight had not died. 

Four defenses down and Bob fancied a pop at heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. Little needs to be said about this blowout. Go ahead and name a light-heavyweight who would have beaten that version of Smokin’ Joe…

’71 of course was the year Frazier left hooked his way to immortality, but Foster did the right thing when big fights are scarce—he stayed active. Five fights and another four defenses maintained his scary reputation at 175 lbs. Rattling speed balls, hurtin’ sparring partners, and checking his form in the mirror; the champion was in the zone.

Venezuela’s Vicente Rondon did something silly and irritated Foster. The WBA title had fell into his hands after Bob was stripped for missing a defense deadline. Not only did Rondon enjoy referring to himself as champion but come the weigh-in he was unprofessionally two pounds over.

Foster measured him from the first bell, flicking that jab, observing patterns. In the second he launched a right followed by a short hook which dropped Vicente. The slashing punches that came his way were lethal. Rondon still had the audacity to hit the real champion on the break. That was it for Bob. He later expressed a desire to punish him over fifteen but a cross and double-hook knocked him silly.

Indeed, Bob had been fighting with the intent (not desire) to kill.

Looking for signs of compassion, a British reporter asked if he noticed Rondon’s twitching body.

“No way. Then I just thought about kicking him.” Laughter wasn’t far away.

The reporter headed the article: Foster cold, clam and menacing

From Miami Beach to Las Vegas, unbeaten Mike Quarry had the crowd behind him. The younger brother of Jerry hoped to finally bring world honors into the bloodline. Foster stalked like always, flashing the jab. A wide stance was rooted for power. A few caught the champion but there was also some good head movement. Things were warming up nicely as the fourth neared completion. With a second to go Bob threw a hook off a right. The last punch obliterated. 

As he walked away he cranked his neck. 

“What was that?” Brian Kenny would later ask.

“What was what?”

“You see the little neck twitch you gave there? What was that?”

“Where?”

“Ah forget it.”

Kenny’s rapid-fire questioning lost the champ, but I know what the gesture was; Tyson did it after demolishing Spinks. It means “Next.”

Specifically, that was England’s Chris Finnegan.

Fourteen tough rounds ended with Finnegan dumped on his butt, totally spent. He had just waged one of Britain’s finest. In turn Bob had proven there was much more to him than TNT. It had been far from easy. A few pops got through in the early goings. Then they came in bunches. As the fight neared double figures Chris brought the fight. This was more like it, though Foster was never ruffled, landing heavy counters. Eventually he made a hole with that sneaky right, and like a true technician, once the problem had been solved it was disposed of.

A brilliant 1972 concluded with one last leap of faith. Muhammad Ali was on the comeback trail after losing to Frazier. His predicting wasn’t what it was though the fact he managed to stick to eight rounds suggested the king of light-heavyweights was exactly that. No more, no less. Cutting Ali’s left eye made for some classic trivia.

With your wife constantly telling you to retire, and your bank account loaded, there often comes a time when retirement opens its arms and fighters lose their edge. Being a deputy police officer went a long way in suppressing this urge. Foster’s downtime was high-octane. That’s only half the story. He once forced his wife to sign a speeding ticket or it was off to jail!

“I like chasing crooks. I drive through town at eighty miles an hour, my red light flashing and my shotgun on my lap. It’s dangerous, but it’s fun.”

A daredevil attitude is why Foster had no qualms about going over to South Africa for their first ever white vs. black fight. Pierre Fourie was already well beaten in August of 1973. As Bob put it, “Nobody calls me boy and gets away with it.” That time he was permitted the luxury to punish over fifteen. Many thousands of segregated fans watched the rematch. It was full of clinching, and closer. A decision kept the title in America but, unlike his bomb making stint of ’66, opponents really were drying up. 

A draw against Jorge Victor Ahumada in ‘74 ended his championship run. A record 14 defenses had been made. Back-to-back defeats in ’78 confirmed he didn’t have the energy he used to. It was time to become a detective for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department. Training young hopefuls was another priority. One day there wasn’t enough energy to fill out reports or hold the pads. 

Now settled at Albuquerque, surrounded by threatening photos (of himself), Foster is engaged in “Not too much these days.” Occasionally someone will knock on the door. A more recent visitor was Ring magazine.

Many obvious questions came his way, though Bob still answers with enthusiasm. Some things need reiterating. It was he who put Albuquerque on the map, not Johnny Tapia. Forget number 8 in the list of 100 greatest punchers, he’s number 1, oh, and John Ruiz is terrible. To conclude he’s asked who in the modern era has caught his eye. After naming a couple he puts emphasis on Kostya Tszyu. “Man, that sucker was bad.” 

Inevitably he recalls the Judah fight and can’t stop laughing. 

For once it’s okay to join in.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Doug Jones vs Bob Foster



Bob Foster vs. Dick Tiger (part 1 of 2)



Bob Foster vs. Dick Tiger (part 2 of 2)



Joe Frazier -vs- Bob Foster 11/18/70



Bob Foster TKO 8 Tommy Hicks



Bob Foster KO2 Vicente Rondon



Bob Foster -vs- Mike Quarry 6/27/72 part 1



Bob Foster -vs- Mike Quarry 6/27/72 part 2



Bob Foster vs Chris Finnegan



Muhammad Ali - Bob Foster. 1972 11 21



Jorge Ahumada vs Bob Foster (17-06-1974)



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  1. john rogan 02:50pm, 03/27/2015

    He came into a store i worked at in 1973. Was wearing his Bernalillo County Sheriff’s uniform…very humble and polite….seemed natural to call him “champ”...His brother Keith just got busted for sending drugs from Fresno, Ca to Albuquerque, NM…Keith Foster is the Deputy Sheriff of Fresno under Chief Dyer!...The entire town of Fresno is in shock…be interesting to hear Bobby’s reaction…doubt if Bobby Foster ever used drugs! Keith is a heroin and oxycontin addict!

  2. Tex Hassler 05:52pm, 04/21/2014

    At light heavy Bob was truly GREAT! He could punch as hard as any man his size ever punched. Bernard Hopkins had better thank God he does not have a prime Bob Foster to fight.

  3. Eric 08:56am, 04/20/2014

    Excluding Gene Tunney and Ezzard Charles, I probably would rank Archie Moore as the greatest light heavy. I would also rank Harry Greb in the top 10 all time light heavyweights even though like Tunney and Charles, Harry never won a world title at that weight. Excluding Tunney and Charles, my top 5 would be Archie Moore, followed by Spinks, Bob Foster,  Bob Fitzsimmons, and Tommy Loughran.

  4. George Thomas Clark 09:24pm, 04/19/2014

    Eric, as you suggest, Michael Spinks is the best light heavyweight in history…

  5. bikermike 05:31pm, 04/19/2014

    Eric….all of what you say is based upon your knowledge…..much greater than mine..of the history…

    All I want to put forward…is that ....when Bob Foster was fighting…he was no cream puff….and when he had the time to take it seriously….he was the biggest ...mean mother fkr in the valley…
    ....had the scars to prove he would fight anybody….and he did….

    Bob Foster brought some sunshine on Lt Hvy Division…..almost as much as when ‘Ol Mongoose ’ did…a cupla decades earlier…....
    Foster was his own man…..never counted upon anybody to put food on his family’s table

  6. bikermike 05:20pm, 04/19/2014

    Cooney nailing Norton..time and again..Louis taking much more punishment from Marciano than was necessary..Chacon ‘s wars….even Ali Holmes…and that hungarian dog fk ...Berbick….

    Should never have been sanctioned….let alone allowed to continue after a point in the match

    Referee is the last line of defence for fighters…and too many times .due to a brave referee…...it costs the fighter too much

  7. Bob 06:35pm, 04/18/2014

    I met Foster at the Hall of Fame many years ago and asked him about the Mike Quarry fight. He said after he dropped Quarry with the left hook, he saw Quarry’s eyes roll around in his head. He went back to his corner and told his trainer, “I think I killed him.” The trainer’s response was, “Business is business.”

  8. bikermike 05:39pm, 04/17/2014

    George Thomas Clark…..I saw the same fight /s that you did…and I feel the same way you do…

    Boxing is my Sport…not gladiator…referee is there to protect the fighters..and that’s not what happened

  9. George Thomas Clark 10:39am, 04/16/2014

    I’m still outraged at the referee for letting Foster continue after going down for a nine-count after a Frazier thunderbolt left.  Helpless, he was an inert target as Joe stepped in and nailed him with another devastating left hook.  This time Bob Foster stayed down a long time.  There’s always been too much of that in boxing - better to stop a fight too late than risk stopping it too early.  Yank Durham afterward rebuked the referee and said Joe could “kill” a guy in a situation like that.  Durham was a fine trainer and decent man.

  10. Mike Casey 08:51am, 04/16/2014

    Very enjoyable read on one of my favourites, Ted. The Tiger and Quarry left hooks from big Bob were two of the greatest I’ve ever seen. Talk about sudden death! I saw the Finnegan fight live on TV and Chris certainly put up a great effort.

  11. Eric 08:07am, 04/16/2014

    Bob should’ve fought Ellis while Jimmy was still the WBA champion. Sure, everyone knew Frazier was the real champ, but still I think Bob could’ve had a pretty good shot at beating Ellis. He certainly would’ve had a better shot at beating Jimmy Ellis than trying to beat someone as formidable as Frazier. Spinks had much tougher opposition at 175lbs than did Foster, and did better as a heavyweight also, that’s why I would rank Spinks higher. Of course Spinks never fought a prime Joe Frazier or a near prime Ali either, but he did become the first light heavy to ever capture the big one. If Spinks could beat a huge Gerry Cooney, I can’t see him being that much an awe of Bob’s power. Cooney’s left hook was certainly more powerful than the one Bob possessed, even the 1987 version of Cooney. And Cooney was 6’6” and 230 plus pounds. Spinks would probably take the UD, but he very well had the capability and power to even KO Bob.

  12. bikermike 08:41pm, 04/15/2014

    Smitty

    Great to hear from a guy that was there….We folks up in Canada..‘specially the West Prairies…only saw Foster in the big fights….

    Gotta make a comment upon ‘legalized pot’ in the two States….they charge twice as much as the ‘dealer’ network….wdf     blueprint for status quo…..meaning….fuk legalization…...

    When booze became legal ..after that hungarian dog fuk PROHIBITION…it cost the same or less

  13. bikermike 08:34pm, 04/15/2014

    Bob Foster made his mark in a harsh time as a Lt Hvy Weight….sometime Hv.

    This was a great article…and tribute to Mr Foster….Thank you Mr Spoon

  14. bikermike 08:27pm, 04/15/2014

    Eric…..kind of like I imagine myself in a hot tub with Raquel Welch…
    Foster could ony face the goes before him at the time.

    He went to match up with HW of his time…and Spinks did the same
    Spiinks was the first Lt Hvyweight Champion to beat the Hvyweight Champion..Larry Holmes…...twice in a row..as I recall

  15. James Smith aka Smitty 12:14pm, 04/15/2014

    Nice Job
    Foster was an all time great.  Was ringside as a kid when he knocked out Rondon on Miami Beach.

  16. Eric 10:31am, 04/15/2014

    Hard to believe that Foster was only 1/2” taller than Michael Spinks, both fighters had skinny upper bodies, but Spinks was much heavier in the legs. I think Spinks even weighed about 170-171lbs for his last light heavyweight title fight before bulking up to face Holmes. Would have been a helluva fight between Spinks and Foster if both had met during their primes. I think Spinks would box his way to a suprisingly comfortable albeit boring victory instead of electing to slug with Foster. I think Bob would have beaten the rest of the best light heavies during the late 70’s/early 80’s period.

  17. Eric 07:59am, 04/15/2014

    Wish that Bob Foster would have been born a few years later and had been around to have some fights with Michael Spinks, Saad Muhammad, Dwight Qawi,  Eddie Mustapha Muhammad, Marvin Johnson. Bob was winding down when Galindez and Conteh were making their mark, couple of good fights there also. Contenders like Yaqui Lopez, Davis brothers, that would have been interesting to see how Bob the Beast would’ve done against that group of 175 pounders.

  18. bikermike 07:14pm, 04/14/2014

    Be interesting to see how much ‘violent crime’ was affected by Bob Foster’s term of office in the areas he worked as a Law Enforcement Officer.
    Could you imagine some punks or drunks giving this guy static ???!!?...

  19. bikermike 07:08pm, 04/14/2014

    Hard to believe this guy could make 175..for all those fights…
    I have no problem when a HONESTOFKNGOD Lt Heavyweight CHampion takes a shot at the HW Title…..and Bob Foster went in with the big fish more than by accident…Frazier…Ali…...not exactly the shallow end.
    ...and let’s not forget that these kinds of match ups…don’t threaten the Lt Hvy Title…and pay very ....very well Compare this to say a thumb in the eyeball ...hammer and tong Lt Hvy Defense against a good ..well matched contender….Ten times the purse for the same punishment…Foster could take care of himself….He did fight on after those HW fights

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