Runaway Train: The Prime George Foreman

By Mike Casey on May 9, 2012
Runaway Train: The Prime George Foreman
It is cruel how a sudden burst of punches can put a permanent dent in a boxer’s legacy

Those opponents who saw any light at the end of the tunnel were usually staring at Foreman’s oncoming train…

The words were good-humored but poignant when George Foreman said to me: “You know, I get kids coming up to me at airports and all kinds of places, saying things like, ‘Hey, George it’s you! I got your grilling machine!’ It’s great, but a lot of them don’t seem to realize I was the heavyweight champ.”

Both of us had caught a lucky break on a hot and sticky day in London some years back during the hurly-burly of one of George’s Lean Mean Grilling Machine presentations at a top London hotel. The big man was suitably attired in a big apron as he grilled fish and burgers and joked with his audience. I told the earnest PR man that I wanted to talk to George about his boxing career. Any chance the champ could take a break for five minutes? Just five minutes.

The PR’s eyes widened and alarm bells were clearly ringing in his brain. He was one of the slick new breed, well scrubbed and well trained, vacant but thoroughly schooled in following the party line. The technology had been perfected in his case, the microchip had been inserted in his brain and the result was a walking, talking corporate press release. The only thing that messed up his circuitry was a rogue journalist who didn’t want to get with the programme.

“Five minutes only, Mike,” he said in near panic, “George is very busy.”

George smiled, held up a big paw and gave the PR man a look that said, “Actually, I’m a bit bored.” The champ ushered me into a quiet back room, where five minutes turned into almost an hour of reminiscing. It was wonderful and George was great company throughout. He seemed so relieved at being able to drop the cheery chef act and chat about his passion for the old fight game.

It was patently clear that boxing was still his favorite topic of conversation. All I had to do was throw a few famous names into the pot and he was suddenly cooking in his true element. He looks back on his golden era of the seventies with justifiable pride, when the heavyweight division glittered with the formidable names of Ali, Joe Frazier, Jerry Quarry, Ken Norton, Jimmy Young, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle, Oscar Bonavena, George Chuvalo et al.

When I mentioned the tragic Quarry, Foreman’s eyes lit up in admiration. The two men never met in the ring and Big George is candid about the reasons. “Jerry was what—195lbs?—but he was always great at handling the big guys like me. He beat guys like Buster Mathis and Mac Foster, and then in 1973, when I was the champ, he took Ron Lyle and knocked out Earnie Shavers in one round. I was happy to leave Jerry alone. He was a talented guy. Would he be a world champion today? Unquestionably.”

In the toughest game of all, where most fighters consider it a weakness to reveal their true fears, Foreman’s honesty was refreshing. He told me that he couldn’t sleep properly for a year after Ali devastated him in the famous Rumble in the Jungle. But George had many more golden moments to cherish.

The greatest night of his life was when he brutalized Smokin’ Joe Frazier in two incredible rounds to win the championship thirty-nine years ago in Kingston, Jamaica. Foreman floored Frazier six times in a breathtaking display of controlled power punching, but never expected such an overwhelming victory. On the contrary, he didn’t even expect to win. “Joe was such a great champion. He was undefeated and he’d beaten Ali. Me beat Joe? I figured there was no way that could happen. When I knocked him down the first time, I felt like going crazy. I had to get a hold of myself and make sure I got the job done.”

The job got done after trainer Dick Sadler whispered six simple words in Foreman’s ear before the start of the second round: “Drop that hammer on him, George.”

Question

Just how great really was George Foreman? The question intrigues me, because Big George is arguably one of the most difficult of the great heavyweights to assess and assign his rightful place. For let us be sure of one thing, he was indeed a great heavyweight. He might just have had it in him to be the greatest we ever had.

In the years to come, I confidently predict that Foreman’s all-time star will rise as he becomes the new darling of the revisionists. He is the ideal candidate, because he was so nearly the great invincible before he tripped and stumbled in the blackness of a distant jungle.

I have Foreman in eighth place on my own all-time list, just a notch below Jim Jeffries, and I frequently wonder if I should have those two titans higher or lower. For all-time rankings are no different from current rankings in the way they fidget and shift and change shape. They just evolve more slowly. Our knowledge of old and new fighters increases as time goes on, and our gut instinct begins to relay new messages that sometimes conflict with the old. Any so-called historian will very quickly lose credibility if he is too blind or too stubborn to recognize a necessary changing of the guard.

It is fitting that Foreman and Jeffries should give me a headache, since they shared so many similarities. Both were among the strongest men ever to step into the prize ring, their strength being excessive of their already formidable size. I speak here of natural strength. This is a concept that is so often misunderstood by many, much in the same way as natural punching power.

The legendary tales of Jeff’s strength are quite true. He was an immensely powerful man, and Big George was similarly blessed. Their weights were near identical in their prime years, around 220 lbs., and that was natural weight and natural muscle. These were men who didn’t need to beef up on excessive weight training, nutritional and protein supplements or performance-enhancing drugs with suitably vague and marketable names.

I would confidently wager my money on Jeff or George beating either Klitschko brother every time in a flat out push-and-shove contest.

However, one important factor separates Jeffries from Foreman in the all-time reckoning. Jeff, in his prime, was never beaten. George was. He shouldn’t have been, but he was. When we finally got around to talking about the Ali fight in Zaire, George gave a wry grin and said quietly, “Yeah, him of all people. Man, I couldn’t get that one out of my head. I still can’t.”

The trouble is, nor can anyone else. It is the one deep scar on Foreman’s record that cannot be erased, just as Sonny Liston’s much more timid failures against the same tormentor will always blot Sonny’s otherwise near excellent ledger. Results of such a monumental nature cannot be conveniently ignored when judging any fighter in an all-time perspective.

Exception

The enormous frustration of the Ali disaster is that George Foreman so nearly reached the finish line as a remarkable exception to a couple of general rules. He won the richest prize in sport with a limited repertoire of fighting skills. He won it by bulldozing 37 mainly nondescript opponents and then similarly crushing a genuinely great champion in Joe Frazier in the acid test that was supposed to find out the young pretender and knock him back down the ladder.

Muhammad Ali memorably christened Foreman “The Mummy,” an unfair and somewhat cruel summation of George’s fighting abilities. Foreman, for those who actually took the trouble to study him, was always more than a simple stalker and banger. He was no Jack Dempsey for speed, variety of attack, movement and general ring science. He was no Jack Johnson or Ali for cleverness, guile and psychology. Nor could George match Joe Louis for pinpoint precision punching. Louis possessed a far superior punching technique, as well as a wonderful jab that was an immensely damaging weapon in its own right.

Yet we come back to that word “exceptional” in Foreman’s case, for he was indeed an exception at the brutal basics. George’s trainer, cagey old Dick Sadler, taught his man how to utilize God’s natural gifts and be the boss of every situation. George was a shuddering puncher and an instinctive ring hunter who intimidated most of his opponents and cut off their escape routes with often deceptive skill. He pushed, he shoved and he employed a very damaging jab when he saw fit.

His emphatic crushing of Frazier and his annihilation of Ken Norton offered comprehensive proof that Foreman was no less devastating at the highest level. The talented Norton, who had split two decisions with Ali and would later comvince millions that he won their third and final fight, was simply swept away by Foreman in less than six minutes of crashing, bashing mayhem.

So many other fighters, built on the weak stilts of inferior opposition, have been savagely exposed when stepping up to the major league. Fresno hitter Mac Foster, the great rage of the late sixties and a contemporary of the young Foreman, knocked out twenty-four men in a row before being brutally punched back into line by Jerry Quarry.

Foreman took that particular script and simply ripped it up. By his own admission, he never did stop kicking tomato cans to keep busy and pad his record. He got it away with it to the very end, through what was effectively two careers, because he simply wasn’t like any other heavyweight of a similar portfolio.

As an older man, during his second coming, Foreman learned patience, economy and better punch timing, because his age and increasing slowness demanded a more measured and intelligent approach. His formidable punching power never decreased and was probably never more graphic than in his sudden destruction of Michael Moorer with a single blow that resembled little more than a casual tap.

Special

George Foreman’s standing as a special and almost unique talent was evident from very early in his career, as was his ability to shock opponents into defeat and leave them in a suspended state of disbelief for some time afterwards. While his style and attack were not as cultured as that of his kindred spirit, Sonny Liston, George was no less proficient at mentally shredding the other man’s awareness and causing him to freeze in his tracks. Those opponents who saw any light at the end of the tunnel were usually staring at Foreman’s oncoming train. George the younger was a runaway train too, full of steam and menace as he thundered down the track and swept all before him.

In 1970, at Madison Square Garden, Foreman stopped Boone Kirkman in two rounds, weighing 216 lbs. to Boone’s 203. There was an almost casual violence about the destruction. Kirkman was the last great heavyweight hope of manager Jack “Deacon” Hurley, who had suffered previous disappointments with Harry Matthews and Charlie Retzlaff. Soon after the opening bell, George placed his gloves on Boone’s shoulders and shoved him straight on his backside. The fight effectively ended right there and then. Psychologically shattered, Kirkman stumbled and spun around as he was struck by a hail of heavy jabs and power shots. He was on the canvas four times before referee Arthur Mercante rescued him.

In the dressing room, Kirkman still couldn’t fathom how the roof fell in. “I don’t believe it,” Boone said. “I just can’t believe this happened to me.”

Three months before, Foreman had manhandled George Chuvalo, that toughest of tough guys, in similar fashion. Look at a replay of that fight and it is hard to believe that the weight differential between the two men was just four pounds in Foreman’s favor. Chuvalo stayed on his feet (he always did) yet looked like a man being flung around in the jaws of a playful lion.

Joe Frazier was similarly bullied and battered in Kingston, often looking small and almost insignificant as he was bounced repeatedly off the canvas, yet Joe was spotting George just three pounds that night.

Now, if you will, get a willing friend of similar weight and try to shove him back just a few inches. It is an enormously difficult thing to do if he is prepared for it. If he is naturally strong, he will then send you reeling with a push of comparative mildness.

We get the point, then, about natural strength. But what about natural punching power? How good was Big George Foreman in that department?

Historian Mike Hunnicut studies hours of quality film in his painstaking analyzes of the great fighters. Every conceivable aspect of their game is put under Mike’s microscope with an objective eye. Of Foreman, Mike says, “He had great natural power and great strength, using it to grab, pull, turn and push his opponents off balance. In the first four rounds, he would use all of his power to knock out men or damage them to an eventual defeat. For sheer impact, he was the hardest hitter with two hands since Sonny Liston.

“On the minus side, George never had great balance or coordination. He also threw himself further off balance by overextending his punches. He leaned over too far when he was doing this, pushing his punches because his balance was too far over his front leg. Foreman never had short power, which requires fast turns and shifts. Consequently, he would often fall into his opponents, shove them and regroup.

“Of the ten ex-fighters and trainers I know who saw Foreman, Dempsey and Louis, none of them picked Foreman as the hardest puncher. Foreman could hit, no doubt about it, but on the best days he ever saw he never reached the level of Dempsey, Louis or Max Baer.

“Dempsey—a one of a kind hitter—and Louis come out as the elite punchers again and again. If you measure the average range from which the great heavyweights could generate knockout power, Jack is first at between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half feet and Joe is his only challenger at between two and three feet. The rest are also-rans. To break the two-feet barrier, you’ve really got to be something.

“People talk misty-eyed about six and nine inch knockout shots, but that’s a big exaggeration if you are measuring the punch in the correct way. The shortest knockout blow I have seen was the eighteen inch shot with which Dempsey knocked out Firpo. That’s going some—that’s as good as it gets.”

Pure

Mike Hunnicut makes some very correct and important observations here, which are often overlooked in all the excitement that accompanies a genuine giant of the ring when he is on the rampage. The bigger the man, the more awesome the destruction can seem. Yet for all his vaunted power, the prime Foreman was essentially a clubbing puncher who rarely put opponents into a slumber with a single shot, save for the lesser opposition he simply scared into taking the ten-count.

Big George’s ring kills were invariably drawn out, as he was forced to knock down opponents repeatedly to finish them off. Dempsey, Louis and Marciano had many such nights, but those three killers of the ring could also end a fight suddenly and devastatingly with one, two or three-shot blasts. They quite literally put their opponents to sleep, which is why I have to place that stellar trio at the top of the hitting tree. Dempsey felt that Marciano was arguably the best of them all in that regard. “One smash and it’s all over,” was Jack’s summation of Rocky’s punching power at its very sharpest.

However, let’s not get too dramatic about all this. Put any fighter under the microscope and the minutae of his shortcomings can appear awfully harsh. The one crashing rejoinder to all this technical talk is this: when a fighter can decimate opponents as Big George could, does he really need to give a flying damn about how he does it?

Foreman remains a deliciously square peg that simply will not fit into any round hole. There is one simple reason for this and it comes in the form of a mind-bending little question: Would you confidently bet everything you own on Big George losing to any heavyweight in history in a one-off head to head battle? I suspect not. That is how potentially dangerous the prime Foreman was. Alas, ‘potentially’ is the key word in assessing George’s place in history.

The big defeat to Ali has been dissected and discussed countless times since that incredible night in the sweltering heat of Kinshasa in 1974. Did Ali win it? Did Foreman lose it? Yes on both counts. I confess here and now to having never been a great Ali rooter, since I feel that he brought as many bad things to the game as good. He clutched like a thief from the very start of his career, mostly with impunity as a generation of otherwise competent referees became as awe-struck by his charisma as the blind faithful who would never hear a word uttered against him.

It was also Ali who led us down the current garden path of tasteless insults and boorish behavior. He tortured some opponents in the ring (Floyd Patterson notably) quite beyond reason and took pleasure from doing so. His kindergarten, rinky-dink poems were lauded by the usual fawning “intellectuals” as the literary stuff of genius.

As a simple fighting man, however, he was an astonishing athlete: multi-talented, teak-tough and with the heart of a lion in the trenches. He wilfully refused to be beaten, even as he stared down the barrel of the gun and heard the click of the trigger.

We will never know for sure if Muhammad’s game plan in Zaire was a tactical masterstroke from the outset or half a plan that required some hasty improvisation and a dash of luck. But he did it. He pulled off one of the greatest victories ever seen against a George Foreman whom many genuinely believed might literally kill him.

As to the theory that George fought the right kind of fight but simply ran into the only man who could withstand his artillery, I disagree. Given the heat and the opponent, Foreman fought with terrible recklessness and lack of thought. Even in the early rounds, when he was still fresh, he was swinging round the houses and expending terrific energy unnecessarily. He was firing crushing punches for sure, which should have done for any other opponent. But Ali wasn’t any other opponent and George knew that.

Foreman flailed like an amateur in his increasing state of panic and exhaustion, when a couple of calm and disciplined shots—even as he neared the moment of death—might still have saved his bacon. He erred both tactically and mentally, and the last small fires from that wreckage continued to simmer and sting him for the remainder of his career.

Effects

The effects of that colossal defeat continued to be apparent through Big George’s fights with Ron Lyle and Jimmy Young, in which Foreman never seemed sure of himself. He lost faith in his ability to stay the distance and became too obsessed with the popular notion of the time that he was badly lacking in stamina. I do not believe he was, not radically so. But he was lacking in mental strength and self-belief. His nose had been bloodied by the one cocky kid in the class who didn’t fear him. To any man who trades on fear, that is the worst kind of hiding to take.

Foreman, for my money, did a pretty remarkable job in his second coming. Refreshed and with a more relaxed attitude to boxing and life in general, he fared admirably well for an old fellow in calmer heavyweight waters that had been deserted by the big sharks of his golden era.

Add up all the parts of a curiously fractured and often fabulous career, and what do we have? We have a great heavyweight who, at his very best, would have scythed his way through the majority of his predecessors. It all depends how you rank them. I still maintain that the fairest possible way to all parties concerned is to weigh all the relevant physical and mental strengths and combine them with overall career achievement and quality of opposition. But you have to work damn hard at it, study hours of film and research and not play favorites.

The who-would-beat-who system is always good fun and preferred by many, but leads to many gridlocks. One is the dreaded triangle where A could beat B, B could beat C, but C could beat A.

Actual series between the greats can be just as entangling. Ezzard Charles was three for three over Archie Moore, but was Ezz really the superior light-heavyweight over the long haul? Was Fighting Harada truly a better bantamweight than Eder Jofre? Was Sandy Saddler on the same plane as Willie Pep among the featherweight masters?

Nevertheless in the fantasy world of a one-off all-time heavyweight knockout tournament, George Foreman would be the bristling dark horse that every other contender would wish to avoid. On power punching ability alone, I would place Foreman in the second tier with the likes of Liston, Tyson and Baer, but firmly behind the supreme talents of Dempsey, Louis and Marciano. Give George fourth position in the power stakes and you will get no great argument from this corner.

Foreman, however, is not a top five heavyweight when all of the other essential categories for qualification are properly and thoroughly examined. What he had, he had in frightening abundance. But he didn’t have enough to make it to the premier division. And oh, that one mad and surreal night in Zaire!  We simply cannot let that one go and nor can George. He will tell you as much in his quiet moments. It is cruel how a sudden burst of punches can put a permanent dent in a boxer’s legacy.

That being said, Foreman is too tough on himself when assessing his career. Harshly, in my view, he does not rate himself among the all-time top ten. That is an honest judgement on his part and not a reflection of his famously self-effacing humor.

Mike Casey is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

ALL TIME BOXING RANKINGS by Mike Casey at: https://sites.google.com/site/alltimeboxingrankings

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

George Foreman vs Boone Kirkman (Nov. 18, 1970)



George Foreman vs George Chuvalo 1970



Joe Frazier vs George Foreman w Howard Cosell 22 1 73 p 1of2



Joe Frazier vs George Foreman w Howard Cosell 22 1 73 p 2of2



George Foreman vs Jose Roman



George Foreman vs Ken Norton - March 26, 1974



George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali - Oct. 30, 1974 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 8 & Interview



1976-01-24 George Foreman vs Ron Lyle (full fight)



The Tale of George Foreman vs Michael Moorer (HBO Legendary Nights)



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  1. Tyler 09:00pm, 02/05/2016

    Why the hell is this guy going on about Foreman’s loss to Ali being an irredeemable black mark on his record? Foreman was beaten by the greatest fighter who ever lived, as was Liston, and I resent this fraud insinuating that Ali shouldn’t have won either fight. Let me be clear: Ali was in complete control of both fights, because he was a smarter and more scientific fighter who understood what his strengths were and how to capitalize on his opponent’s weaknesses. Go watch the fight in Zaire, and observe Ali completely dominate it from start to finish. He brilliantly lets Foreman (Who was and is a great great great fighter) slug away at his indestructible midsection, popping him at will with lightning fast lefts to the face, and then putting together vicious combinations at various periods throughout the fight, generally toward the ends of the rounds. People act like this was some miraculous upset in which Ali had his ass handed to him for 8 rounds and then put together a quick combination to come from behind. Those claims are made by people who have never seen the fight or have watched it and clearly had no clue what they were seeing. This writer is so disrespectful to the legacy of both men it’s unreal. George Foreman is an all time great, and there’s absolutely no shame at all in being beaten by the greatest of all time, because every other fighter would have been too.

  2. Tyler 08:55pm, 02/05/2016

    Why the hell is this guy going on about Foreman’s loss to Ali being an irredeemable black mark on his record? Foreman was beaten by the greatest fighter who ever lived, as was Liston, and I resent this fraud insinuating that Ali shouldn’t have won either fight. Let me be clear: Ali was in complete control of both fights, because he was a smarter and more scientific fighter who understood what his strengths were and how to capitalize on his opponent’s weaknesses. Go watch the fight in Zaire, and observe Ali completely dominate it from start to finish. He brilliantly lets Foreman (Who was and is a great great great fighter) slug away at his indestructible midsection, popping him at will with lightning fast lefts to the face, and then putting together vicious combinations at various periods throughout the fight, generally toward the ends of the rounds. People act like this was some miraculous upset in which Ali had his ass handed to him for 8 rounds and then put together a quick combination to come from behind. Those claims are made by people who have never seen the fight or have watched it and clearly had no clue what they were seeing. This writer is so disrespectful to the legacy of both men it’s unreal. George Foreman is an all time great, and there’s absolutely no shame at all in being beaten by the greatest of all time, because every other fighter would have been too.

  3. Leigh 12:44pm, 10/12/2014

    Great stuff Mike, I love watching foreman fights and my young son even likes watching old george fights ,and watching him on the heavy bag never gets old to me ,well done Mike.

  4. Eric 06:59pm, 11/19/2012

    As much as I admire the great Dempsey, Louis, and Marciano, I agree with Rudy Watson that Foreman would beat all three men.

  5. the thresher 05:25pm, 10/31/2012

    Things heating up here. About time. Let’s rock and roll, mates.

  6. Darrell 04:30pm, 10/31/2012

    You are so full of it TEX HASSLER.  Did one of those K-bro’s push you out of a queue or something?

    I wouldn’t expect George to hunt down Vitali for one, who must be one of the best back foot fighters ever & has a very solid chin.  Sure, George could put anyone’s lights out & I will not denigrate him in any way but both Klitschkos, Wlad especially, are equally capable of knocking George into next week as well.

  7. Rudy Watson 03:17pm, 10/31/2012

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment of George Foreman’s punching power.  To place George Foreman in the second tier of heavyweight punchers is ludicrous!  Some things are plainly obvious and abundantly clear even to the most novice observer.  George Foreman at any point in his career, early ‘70s or late ‘80s or early ‘90s would have DESTROYED Dempsey, Louis or Marciano!  A Foreman-Marciano fight would have been homicidal! You write about boxing in very didactic and professorial fashion.  You have obviously done your homework.  You are excellent.  However, there is a reason that George Foreman is still mentioned with reverence when the topic of punching power is discussed.  The film doesn’t lie!  Watching him physically lift the undefeated and toughest champion of all, Joe Frazier, off the ground with uppercuts and right crosses is still one of the most breathtaking and at the same time frightening sights I have ever seen.  Watching him batter and overwhelm the chiseled and herculean form of Ken Norton within 2 rounds was equally impressive.  As far as the Rumble in the Jungle is concerned, a close inspection of the match clearly shows that Ali wanted no part of an actual fight with George Foreman.  He laid against the ropes and basically sacrificed his long-term health to survive the pummeling he took from Foreman.  Ali in my opinion is the only heavyweight in history that could have withstood Foreman’s onslaught.  I have not watched boxing with the nuanced eye that you have.  I will admit that I have not researched boxing to the degree that you have.  However, during the Foreman 2nd career, me and others that I watched his fights with could not get over the phenomena of a middle-aged Foreman throwing all arm, glancing punches and blowing up heavyweights 10-15 years his junior!  They looked as if they had been detonated. I have never seen another heavyweight have that type of effect on an opponent after throwing what appeared to be light taps instead of punches!  When opponents fought Foreman they were literally fighting to stay alive! Take a look at the Cooney or Morrison fights.  They had looks on their faces that I have not seen on supposedly big and bad heavyweights.  Big George in my humble opinion is the biggest puncher in heavyweight history!  The film is too irrefutable to deny this.

  8. TEX HASSLER 04:50pm, 05/18/2012

    Thanks for pointing out that George Foreman was great at pushing opponents off balance then landing his big punches. Many old time fighters pushed opponents off balance either by punchers, or a shoulder or just pushed them off balance. This is now a forgotten trick. The Klitschko brothers would be terribly exposed if they faced a prime George Foreman and they would be quickly hunted down and KO’d. I know younger fans will not believe that but that is stark reality. Great article Mr. Casey.

  9. Darrell 02:54am, 05/15/2012

    Great read!

    The riddle of where to place George in an all-time list IS difficult.  He was an amalgam of awe inspiring strengths & very obvious weaknesses.  That he is in & out of the fringes of the top 10 of most pundits all-time heavyweight lists is a recognition of those qualities….along with his relatively short reign as champion.

    George’s amazing story as a whole certainly makes him compelling though.

  10. Matt McGrain 06:45am, 05/11/2012

    Outside of Ali and Louis in the #1 and #2 berths, it’s hard for me to care how the HW’s are organised, really.  Many have an argument for #3 down through 15ish after which it gets really soft. i don’t really sweat them any more (Sure can kick off an argument though, these little numbers)

  11. Don from Prov 09:19am, 05/10/2012

    I believe that Tunney is a very underrated fighter, Mr. Casey, and I also believe that with the advent of super-tanker heavyweights, Dempsey is becoming underrated as well.  Yet, to travel too far down that road leads to a repeat of (what is becoming) the endless “size” debate, so let me just thank you again for a fine article.

  12. tuxtucis 07:44am, 05/10/2012

    Ok, I understand.

  13. mikecasey 07:40am, 05/10/2012

    My all time rankings appear on a completely independent website, for which our editor here, Robert Ecksel, kindly provides a link. However, to use Boxing.Com as a forum for discussing them would be inappropriate and impolite. It would also lead to a thousand pointless arguments where no two people ever agree with each other.

  14. tuxtucis 07:27am, 05/10/2012

    In the last version of his all time rankings, Casey harshly accentuates his old-timers preferences…Not possible to put Hagler only 13, Hearns only 15 in welters, Whitaker 20 (!) in lightweights and to not put Mayweather Jr. in top 20 jr. lights… And please, Jofre can’t be rated in top 25 pound for pound: he lost twice with the only strong fighter he ever met (Harada)

  15. mikecasey 05:27am, 05/10/2012

    You know, Don, it gladdens my heart that you mention Tunney here. Some years ago, I suggested that Gene would outsmart the younger Foreman and the roof fell in on me from one writer who rates George third in the all time stakes. I notice that Liston has crept up to number two on some people’s lists (notably Herb Goldman’s). This cannot be so. Sonny and George - for all their thrilling qualities - were too flawed to make it it to those heights. Frazier, much as I loved him, moved straight into George and got smashed. Dempsey would never have done that. Watch how carefully he sizes up Willard before striking. Tunney would have shown George moves that he never knew. But against Dempsey - even old and rusty Dempsey - Gene said that he only hit Jack flush on two occasions in their two fights.

  16. Don from Prov 05:10am, 05/10/2012

    Always appreciate Mr. Casey’s intelligent and fully formed insights into boxers.  Foreman is one of my favorite fighters and his war with Lyle still amazes me.  I agree that he is among the hardest to rate, and not the least because he had two such distinct parts to his career: There was the young destroyer, and then the older more measured man, but there is such a divide, I’m never sure that there was one Foreman who melded both styles so fully that he was undeniably, top five or six, great.  The young man definitely had stamina issues and they very well might have had to do with a his psychological make-up to some degree: He certainly appeared to be the stereotype of a puncher who is always tense lest the other man weather his blows.  I can recall Big George huffing and puffing through fights long before Ali put the final bugaboo in his head.  The “second” George was measured, relaxed even in the ring as if the scars of Ali (and the post-Ali fights) and the passage of years had burned that puncher’s “need” to dominate every moment out of him.  Yet, the second George never knocked out a fighter of the top tier (Moorer might have moved up from light-heavy, but his chin didn’t).  So, which George was truly great?  Would early George ever catch up to Tunney (think Mr. Peralta and those tough fights with him)?  Could he have blown out the other big punching heavyweights from history, or would most of them been able to stay with him until he gassed?  And the second George?  Does anyone truly find him great?  Again, one of my favorite heavyweights of all time, but when I really consider him, honestly…I don’t know.

    But, a great article, Mr. Casey.  As one who is always happy to read about George but has done so very often, not that many articles stand out: Yours does.

  17. mikecasey 09:06am, 05/09/2012

    Thanks, champ!

  18. the thresher 09:04am, 05/09/2012

    Mike keeps on raising the bar with these cracking articles. Lovely stuff, Mike.

  19. mikecasey 06:53am, 05/09/2012

    Thanks gents.

  20. Douglas Cavanaugh 06:44am, 05/09/2012

    An excellent breakdown and a great read, Mike! A very well balanced piece. I guess if I HAD to take you to task on anything it would be this:

    “While his style and attack were not as cultured as that of his kindred spirit, Sonny Liston, George was no less proficient at mentally shredding the other man’s awareness and causing him to freeze in his tracks”

    Who? Ken Norton and Joe Roman. That’s pretty much it. Foreman was only a really feared heavyweight for about 22 months and three fights. Before Frazier (and after Ali) nobody was quaking in their boots over Foreman.

    Liston was the Darth Vader of the division for years. You really can’t compare the two in this department.

    Just something to think about :-) Again, nice work!!

  21. Norman Marcus 05:58am, 05/09/2012

    Mike Casey comes up with another skilled examination of a boxer, this time, George Foreman. Like a surgeon, he cuts to the most interesting parts of the man’s career.
    Always learning from you Mike-great article!

  22. mikecasey 05:49am, 05/09/2012

    Yeah, Matt, a gorgeous pick ‘em slugfest. Sonny was certainly the superior boxer.

  23. Matt McGrain 05:45am, 05/09/2012

    I got Liston over George I guess.  More correct, narrower, edge in handspeed best-for-best and not far behind in power, very much in the same ballpark for strength.  Imagine the PPV numbers for a fight like that?

  24. mikecasey 05:38am, 05/09/2012

    I think about that match-up often, Schmidty. Sonny was the more cultivated puncher, but I would lean towards Foreman.

  25. mikeschmidt 05:36am, 05/09/2012

    Great article Mike and funny timing wise for me because just last week I passed down the hallway into my brother’s law office and he was watching the first Frazier fight. My brother’s comment: “God, when you look at him in that fight and Norton—in shape, fast, power, size, and the jab who do you have beating him with exception of a prime Ali and style—power size-wise maybe, power to power who gets who first, Liston. My answer—I DON’T KNOW!!!”

  26. mikecasey 05:35am, 05/09/2012

    Yes, Matt, you can only judge people as you see them. We were all alone in that room and George had no reason to put on an act. There was no tedious, crushing ‘macho’ handshake either. Like Jeff before him, George seemed very conscious of his strength and a little embarrassed by it. For what it’s worth, he rated Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano as the greatest heavyweights in that order. He seemed eager to name some more, but then that bloody PR guy came back!!

  27. Matt McGrain 05:27am, 05/09/2012

    Lovely stuff.  Foreman is the most transformed man in boxing, it’s hard for me to believe he’s the same guy, going from what Mailer questionably but understandably described as a “great black forest” to arguably American sporting life’s single greatest second act.  I think Atlas was wrong.  Foreman really is as lovable (if sometimes eccentric) as he appears, not that i’ve had the same privilege as Mike, in meeting him.

    As to the ratings question, i don’t think of it as being as important as I used to, but the last time I did a list I had Foreman at #9 and Jeffries at #10.  Switching them is OK by me.

    This is my favourite article from boxing.com’s history (1st read, anyway), and as a longtime reader and admirer of the site, I guess that’s no small compliment Mike.  Great, great stuff.  Thanks.

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