The CBZ Newswire

40th Anniversary Special: The Sunshine Showdown — ‘Down Goes Frazier!’ Jamaica, 1973

by on Jan.27, 2013, under Boxing News

By Christopher James Shelton

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“The Sunshine Showdown”, 1973, has lost some of its luster due to the “Rumble In The Jungle”, 1974, and “Thrilla In Manila”, 1975. At the time of the bout, it appeared to be a weaker moment amongst world heavyweights. Only the undefeated champion, Joe Frazier, and a tarnished Muhammad Ali, held names of high recognition and esteem.

Within two years that perception would drastically alter so that this period is currently viewed as one of more beloved and respected eras of the heavyweight division. Don Dunphy proved once again that he is the best announcer in boxing history. But it was an impassioned (and nearly hysterical) Howard Cosell whose imprint permanently marked this sporting event.

American Broadcasting Company, via “Wide World Of Sports”, replayed the television friendly bout in its entirety several times. If the fight retains any permanent personality or identity, it is with the unofficial renaming of the “The Sunshine Showdown” into the “Down Goes Frazier” bout.

George Foreman, age 12, was destined to be a ‘bum’. It was how he viewed himself when not consumed by grandiose dreams of greatness. Foreman was doing what he enjoyed best, skipping school, sneaking back into the family home, before flopping his oversized body onto the bed for more sleep.  A female family member caught him ‘playing hooky’, but instead of the expected scolding, told him as she prepared for work: “Go back to sleep. You ain’t ever gonna be nothing. Nobody from here ever became anything but dead or drunk.”

In the midst of an America and world in turmoil, along with social revolution, the moody teenaged Foreman received a miracle.

The Great Society of President Lyndon Johnson, for the first time, provided Job Corps, which assisted dropout kids to learn skills for the workplace. Something in Foreman’s psyche, that anyone cared about him, not just individuals but a nation, altered his feel-sorry-for-himself attitude into someone more disciplined. Foreman learned carpentry, bricklaying and electronics.

After failing to land a job in his native, Houston, an embittered Foreman was hired at the California Job Corps as a physical education instructor. He was encouraged to join the Job Corps boxing team where he compiled a 16-4 amateur record. Foreman, as his self-esteem improved, imagined preaching to others that if they prayed to God, stayed off drugs and the streets, retained a work ethic that anyone can accomplish goals. Foreman also fantasized about being a millionaire and this made him love America even more.

Foreman’s greatest amateur boxing achievement, heavyweight gold champion of the Mexico City, 1968, Olympics, made him even more a ‘bum’:  Foreman incensed sections of America by waving an American flag after his finals victory. It was mockingly compared to the ‘black power’ fist salute by two American track and field athletes from the medal podium. Only days before those Olympics occurred the Tlatelolco massacre, with thousands of students arrested and scores killed by Mexican military troops.

If Foreman’s flag waving had been contrasted with Mexico’s violence it might have been viewed as more heroic. Foreman refused to apologize to the Black community while expressing appreciation for LBJ and Job Corps. Lyndon Baines Johnson would die the same day as “The Sunshine Showdown”.

One person that had no regrets for waving an American flag, or speaking openly of his love for America, was Don King. The wishful promoter was a former Cleveland numbers banker who had killed two people. The manslaughter convicted felon latched onto former heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, by appealing about the lack of Black boxing promoters. King had placed himself in position for one of the richest promotions in boxing history: Ali versus Frazier II, with $1.5-million guaranteed for both fighters.

Champion Joe Frazier did not like King, and liked Ali even less, so he ignored a lawsuit forcing the title showdown, and instead chose to face the undefeated Goliath challenger. Ali was openly perturbed: what if Frazier loses? Don King likely held similar thoughts, but refused to display the world anything other than a dazzling smile.

Don King would learn from “The Sunshine Showdown”. Madison Square Garden, which had hosted the lucrative Frazier/Ali bout, lost its bid to the Government of Jamaica. Alex Valdez had promoted Frazier’s European singing tour: “Joe Frazier and The Knockouts,” and Frazier liked him enough to allow his negotiation for the upcoming title bout. Valdez teamed with a Chinese-descent Jamaican named Lucien Chen. Chen had worked illegally inside America as a waiter for a Chinese restaurant. Chen saved enough money for a return to Jamaica as a bookmaker and boxing promoter. Valdez and Chen convinced the Government of Jamaica, through local lawyer, Paul FitzRitzson, to bid against Madison Square Garden through the name, National Sports Limited. Madison Square Garden guaranteed Frazier $800,000, Foreman $250,000, with the State of New York lowering their taxes to 10%. National Sports Limited, with a Jamaica bank offering collateral, guaranteed Frazier $850,000, Foreman $375,000, with 0% taxes.

When Foreman was threatened with a lawsuit from a theatrical agent with whom he had signed a long term contract, any injunction not enforceable outside America, National Sports Limited won the bid and the Government of Jamaica had its heavyweight championship bout. Jamaica would attempt to recoup its investment through closed-circuit television and the box office from its National stadium. (36,000 would be the paid attendance for the 42,000 capacity Kingston venue). Only Playboy publisher, Hugh Hefner, could enjoy the fight from the comfort of his home.

Paul FitzRitzson said, ”Mister Hefner is paying us in money and bunnies.”

Don King was a numbers man, and the idea of a poorer nation sponsoring a heavyweight championship bout, would eventually lead to “The Rumble In The Jungle” (Zaire) and the “Thrilla In Manila” (Philippines).

Most people viewed Muhammad Ali as the #2 heavyweight in the world. Joe Frazier openly courted the undefeated Olympic champion, Foreman, as the legitimate #1 contender. Frazier was perturbed that Ali gave him no credit for his unanimous decision victory in 1971. Ali continued to insist that he had won their fight (despite being knocked down) and that the judges cheated because he was Muslim and did not agree with his views on Vietnam. Muhammad Ali’s ego and pocketbook was galled at the idea of Frazier earning less money by fighting Foreman. Frazier had gained ten pounds since their bout and did not appear to care.

Millions of dollars were riding on the line for Muhammad Ali, but only with a Frazier victory. Most newspapers viewed Frazier as a likely winner over Foreman, by knockout, and the gamblers made him a 3 ½-1 favorite. Former heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, not an Ali fan, probably made Ali more concerned by predicting the underdog as victor.

 ”You don’t have to have experience to beat Frazier. You don’t have to outthink him the way you do Cassius Clay…. (Frazier) is always in front of you and easy to hit,” Joe Louis said.  “I’ll tell you about that fight (Frazier/Ali):  Clay’s taken something out of Frazier. There’s no doubt about it.”

Joe Frazier had become a blue-collar hero and icon for America. The teenaged Frazier had built his own punching bags in South Carolina out of corn cobs, pine tree sap and cotton. It was Frazier, not the fictional Rocky Balboa, whose training included jogging those 72-steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was Frazier, not Rocky Balboa, who pounded raw meat at a Philadelphia slaughterhouse before an eight-hour shift of mopping blood.

Frazier had won the heavyweight gold medal for the 1964 Olympics and then parlayed that into an undefeated professional career with high-profile victories against Oscar Bonovena, Jerry Quarry and Champion Jimmy Ellis. Frazier went to ‘work’ inside the ring, always stepping forward while throwing punches, with gritty determination. Frazier’s defeat over the previously unbeaten Muhammad Ali had elevated his status as possibly one of the greatest heavyweight champions.

One thing was definite, and both Frazier and Foreman knew the truth.  When they stepped into the Jamaica ring, January 22nd, 1973, only one of the boxers would be afraid, and it would not be Joe Frazier.

Joe Frazier is the psycho robot cowboy killer from Westworld, played by Yul Brynner, that even after you dismember him and throw acid in his face, revives alive again while stepping forward without emotion. Joe Frazier is Michael Myers from Halloween, Jason from Friday the 13th, Freddy Krueger or Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. Frazier is the crazy man with the hockey mask in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Frazier’s energy, lack of fear, and tenaciousness was impossibly intimidating. Oscar Bonovena knocked Frazier down twice in the 2nd round of their encounter. Frazier smiled and appeared to enjoy the pain. Frazier tenaciously arose from knockdowns with non-stop punches.

The worst strategy against Muhammad Ali is to step forward continuous, but Ali underestimated the conditioning and drive of the ‘non-human’ Champion. George Foreman wanted the heavyweight championship more than anything in the world. But the challenger also knew that he would have to kill Joe Frazier first to achieve that dream. It was both awesome and frightening.

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

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It’s now January 22, 1973.  Don Dunphy says, ”Here’s the challenger for the heavyweight title, Big George Foreman. The undefeated heavyweight was born in Marshall, Texas, January 10th, 1949, which makes him twenty-four. He now lives in Heywood, California. Foreman won the Olympic crown in 1968, turned pro, and guided by the canny Dick Sadler; he has won all his 37 fights, scoring 34 knockouts. He’s six-feet-four, and he has a reach of seventy-eight-and-a-half inches. George Foreman, the challenger! His biggest achievement is the knockout of George Chuvalo.”

He continues:  “Here comes the undefeated Champion, Joe Frazier. Joe was born in Buford, South Carolina, January 12th, 1944, and now lives in Philadelphia. Frazier won the Olympic crown in ’64, and guided by Yancey Durham, has won all his professional fights, getting him 29 straight victories, with 25 knockouts. Frazier won recognition as heavyweight Champion by defeating Jimmy Ellis by a knockout. He cemented his position with a unanimous decision over the undefeated Muhammad Ali, in 1971. Joe is five-feet-eleven, with a reach of seventy-three-and-a-half inches…. The heavyweight championship of the world! The biggest event in all sports…. And I hope you’re as excited as I am, because one never knows what might happen at a heavyweight championship fight, or any fight for that matter.”

ROUND 1: Both are aggressive. Foreman misses with left jabs, but lands rights to body. Frazier head bobs while bouncing on feet.

Dunphy says, ”Frazier in the white trunks. Foreman in the red trunks.”

Frazier steps forward, but not throwing punches. Foreman slightly backs, but still lands to body with long arms and raw physical power. Foreman lands two left jabs to face that slightly back up Frazier.

Dunphy: “Foreman a little tense looking.”

Foreman lands a left jab and pushes Frazier backward. Frazier does not throw punches though he is the aggressor.

Dunphy: “Frazier rarely wins the first round. I’d be surprised if he won one now.”

They exchange jabs. Frazier lands another left jab to body. Foreman lands a left jab to head, misses with his right, and then shoves Frazier backward. Frazier bounces forward again. Foreman lands a left jab to head and then misses with his right. Frazier lands a hard left uppercut hook to the jaw.

Dunphy: “Foreman has been nailed, and nailed good. Joe Frazier’s best punch is his left hook.”

They move in close with Frazier determinedly stepping forward.

Dunphy: “Foreman apparently not trying to back Frazier off with his left jab.”

Foreman lands a left jab to face and follows with a hard right uppercut that lands to chin. Foreman pushes Frazier backward.

Dunphy: “Now Foreman looks a little looser.”

Frazier seems confused, but tenaciously steps forward. Foreman’s powerful long arms push Frazier backward. Frazier continues forward with an attempt to land a left hook to chin, but it falls short. Frazier’s momentum takes him forward until Foreman pushes him backward. Foreman steps forward and misses wildly with two punches, as Frazier head ducks, but continues with a hard left jab that lands to chin.

Howard Cosell says, “There’s another left by George. He’s getting into Frazier’s head. We’ll find out tonight how much the Ali fight took out of Frazier. If anything. And we’ll find out tonight just how good George Foreman is at giving and taking a punch.”

Foreman wildly throws punches while missing half of them. Foreman lands a left jab to face and follows with a right that misses.

Dunphy: “Foreman with a good, smart, snappy jab.” F

oreman lands a hard left punch to head and follows with a right to head that misses.

Cosell shouts, ”I THINK HE HURT JOE FRAZIER! I THINK JOE IS HURT!”

Dunphyis understated in his response: ”Foreman is having a very good round.”

Foreman lands a left to head, follows with a right that lands to head, and then follows with a left that grazes the side of head.

And then those famour words.

“DOWN GOES FRAZIER! DOWN GOES FRAZIER!” Cosell shouts.  “DOWN GOES FRAZIER!”

Dunphy: “Joe is down.”

Frazier bounces to his feet and walks a bit in circles while Foreman relaxes his long arms on the neutral corner ropes.

Cosell: “THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION IS TAKING THE MANDATORY EIGHT-COUNT AND FOREMAN IS AS POISED AS CAN BE!”

Both men step forward. Foreman lands a hard left punch to body, and then follows with a right which lands on top of head. Frazier lands a left hook to chin. Foreman pushes Frazier backward.

Dunphy: “A minute to go in the round.”

Cosell: “WE HAVE A MINUTE LEFT IN THIS ROUND AND ALREADY THE BOUT HAS TURNED OUT AS SOME HAVE EXPECTED!”

Foreman steps forward while Frazier determinedly holds his ground. They exchange punches. Foreman throws wild lefts, rights to head that graze instead of landing clean, but are still punishing.

Dunphy: “Frazier’s in real trouble here.”

Frazier backs into the ropes. Foreman steps forward and lands a left jab to face. Foreman slows his pace with momentary patience as he searches for an opening. Frazier head bobs with his back against the ropes. Foreman lands and misses with powerful lefts and rights.

Cosell: “OHHH, THAT LEFT IS GETTING IN THERE!”

Dunphy: “Frazier seems to be hurt. He’s being rocked.”

Foreman utilizes his left arm reach advantage. Frazier surges forward with a wild left hook to chin that misses short. Foreman pushes Frazer backward into the corner ropes. Foreman misses and lands with wild lefts, rights to head while leaning and pushing a trapped Frazier backward into the corner ropes.

Cosell: “FRAZIER IS DAZED! HE IS GETTING HIT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN! THE SAME HEAD THAT WAS HIT SO OFTEN BY MUHAMMAD ALI! FRAZIER IS DAZED!”

Dunphy: “Foreman in complete control of the fight.”

Foreman pins Frazier with his long, outstretched left while landing powerful rights to head.

Cosell: “FOREMAN HAS NOT PANICKED! FOREMAN IS GOING ABOUT HIS JOB!”

Frazier is trapped and confused with his bobbing head and determination to step forward.

Dunphy: “Frazier is fighting back gamely, but he’s having trouble.”

Cosell: “FOREMAN IS ALL OVER JOE FRAZIER!”

Dunphy: “Twenty seconds to go.”

Foreman lands a powerful right clean to jaw.

Dunphy: “Frazier is down again.”

 Cosell: “FRAZIER IS DOWN AGAIN, AND HE MAYBE, NO, HE IS RISING! HE IS GAME!”

Frazier quickly arises glassy-eyed, wobbles a bit, and pounds his gloves.

Cosell: “HE IS DAZED! HE DOESN’T KNOW WHERE HE IS!”

Dunphy: “Frazier is wobbling around. He’s taking a mandatory eight-count.”

Cosell: “HE IS TAKING A MANDATORY EIGHT-COUNT! HE DOESN’T KNOW WHERE HE IS!”

 Frazier steps forward with guarded gloves to protect his face.

Cosell: “HE IS – NOW THE ROUND IS ABOUT TO END! TWO KNOCKDOWNS IN THE ROUND OF JOE FRAZIER!”

Dunphy: “Frazier has never taken this kind of punishment.”

Foreman aggressively steps forward with a wild right to head that grazes, follows with a wild left to head that grazes, and then lands a powerful right to chin.

Cosell: “DOWN AGAIN! NO SAVING BY THE BELL!”

Dunphy: “Frazier goes down at the bell.”

Cosell: “HE’S UP AND SO THE BOUT CONTINUES!”

Reviewing round one, Muhammad Ali says, ”Foreman is like an amateur with his punches. His left jab is good, but he doesn’t know how to follow it up. If Frazier could have kept distance, he would have done better. He’s making a mistake by standing up to Foreman and fighting him after the knockdown. He’s a little too proud. He thinks he’s the heavyweight Champion, so he thinks he’s gotta go get his man. He needs to retreat and cool off rather than going right back there to fight again. He’s running right into wild punches. George, you see, is not aiming his punches, he is just throwing them. He’s just throwing hard, wild punches and Frazier stands right there and allows himself to be hit by them. If he could get off the ropes and stop trying to slug it out, he could win this fight, because right now George is very, very tired. George is aiming. He’s just throwing wild, amateur punches.”

ROUND 2: Both are offensively aggressive while simultaneous stepping forward with wild punches. Foreman expends tremendous energy. Foreman attempts to hold Frazier with a long left on top of head while punching to the face with his right. Referee, Arthur Mercante, steps between the boxers, taps Foreman, and then orders him to back away.

Dunphy: “Foreman is being warned.”

Frazier steps backward and traps himself into the corner ropes. Foreman steps forward and pounds away with powerful lefts and rights.

Dunphy: “Frazier is being battered in Foreman’s corner.”

Foreman pounds at the head of a trapped Frazier.

Cosell: “OHHH, HE IS ALL OVER FRAZIER AGAIN!”

Frazier attempts a sideways escape, trips over Foreman’s foot, and then trips over his own feet as he stumbles in retreat.

Cosell: “FRAZIER’S KNEES BUCKLED!”

Foreman steps forward with a hard swatting right that lands to the back of head.

Dunphy: “Joe goes down again. He goes down again.”

Cosell: “HE IS DOWN FOR THE FOURTH TIME IN THE FIGHT! GEORGE FOREMAN IS DOING TO JOE FRAZIER WHAT A NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD DID TO A VETERAN RUSSIAN, A FELLOW NAMED IONAS CHEPULIS, IN OCTOBER, 1968, IN THE MEXICO CITY ARENA!.”

A stunned Frazier rises, wobbles a bit, and then steps forward towards Foreman.

Dunphy: “Forty-five seconds into the round. Joe has been down four times.”

Foreman easily lands a left to chin. Foreman aggressively continues with wild lefts, rights that equally miss and land.

Cosell: “A QUICK LEFT! ANOTHER!” Foreman lands a short, compact left to chin. Dunphy: “There goes Joe down again.” Cosell: “FRAZIER IS DOWN FOR THE FIFTH TIME IN THIS FIGHT! THREE TIMES IN THE FIRST ROUND! TWICE IN THE SECOND!”

 Frazier instantly rises and is ready to fight again. Foreman throws wild, loopy lefts and rights to head that miss and land, while pushing Frazier backward into the ropes.

Dunphy: “Five times he’s been down. Foreman is at him again.”

 Foreman tees off with lefts, rights that land to head. Dunphy: “It’s hard to see how Frazier can last.” Frazier is confused as he allows himself to be repeatedly hit.

Cosell: “IT’S TARGET PRACTICE FOR GEORGE FOREMAN! IT IS TARGET PRACTICE! FRAZIER IS READY TO GO AGAIN!”

Foreman lands a right to chin and then follows with a short left that lands clean to jaw.

 Cosell: “THERE HE GOES!”

Dunphy: “Joe is down for the sixth time. Let’s see if the referee stops it.”

Frazier rises and begins wobbling forward in the wrong direction.

Cosell: “THEY ARE GOING TO, NO; THEY ARE NOT GOING TO STOP IT!”

Referee Mercante has hold of Foreman as he attempts to pull him away.

Dunphy: “He’s trying to get his man to a neutral corner. Frazier doesn’t know where he is!”

Cosell: “ANGIE DUNDEE IS SCREAMING, ‘STOP IT’!”

Referee Mercante rushes over to the undefeated Champion with waving arms.

Dunphy: “The fight is over! The fight is over! The winner is George Foreman!”

Cosell: “IT IS OVER IN THE SECOND ROUND! GEORGE FOREMAN IS THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!”

The ring is dangerously inundated by a swarm of men. Two fist fights erupt simultaneous. The most determined person in the building is promoter, Don King, who had arrived at the arena in a limousine with Joe Frazier, and would exit the arena, in that same limousine, with George Foreman.

Another determined man is Don Dunphy, with the assistance of Dick Sadler, as he attempts to land a first interview with the new heavyweight Champion.

Dunphy says, ”It’s a madhouse here in the ring. We have a new heavyweight Champion of the world…. I can’t get near the new heavyweight Champion. I just hope I don’t lose my microphone…. The ring is a madhouse. A stunning upset…. I’m trying to get to George Foreman. Out of the way, fellows, please.”

Both King and Dunphy push forward through the aggressive crowd, until King has secured Foreman’s shoulder, while Dunphy has hold of his arm.

An exhausted and bleary-eyed George Foreman says, ”Joe Louis, I have more respect for him than any man in the world. Next to Joe Louis, Mister Archie Moore.”

An ecstatic (or so he appears), Don King, slaps an oblivious Foreman hard to the back of shoulder. “My man. I got it. My man!”

“What round is it?” Foreman asks.

Dunphy: “You forgot what round you won in?”

Foreman: “I thought it was the fourth.”

Dunphy: “Do you know how many times you knocked Joe down?”

Foreman: “I can’t remember.”

Dunphy: “George, I got to know about your plans for the future. Will you fight Joe Frazier again or Muhammad Ali?”

A beaming Don King continues to rub and hold onto the shoulder of the new money machine.

 ”Right now, my plans were to win the heavyweight Championship. I’d like to tell all the kids, to preach, that if you work really hard, and pray, that you can do anything. I’d like to spend my whole life preaching. Even more than fighting,” Foreman says. “My next fight will be to work with all the juveniles. That’s the ring. The world is my ring.”

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