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Thread: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

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    ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Almost The Man: But Big George Is Not A Top Five Heavyweight

    By Mike Casey from Boxing Scene

    Never assume that the title of ‘boxing historian’ makes a guy feel grand or superior. Only the insufferably smug and deluded feel like that. Trust me when I tell you that the one thing most of us dread is that bold new message in the inbox that opens with the quietly chilling words, “Hey, you’ll know the answer to this one….”

    When a fellow historian is lurking on the other end of it, the heart beats even faster, the guard goes up and the ridiculous feinting begins. I had one such message just the other day from a friend and fellow obsessive who mischievously asked: “How hard did George Foreman hit? And how does he stack up on the all-time heavyweight list?”
    Yikes! Two questions! The shifty rascal! Sheer instinct enabled me to take care of the first one. “Damn hard, sir, if we’re being frank.”

    It brought me a few precious seconds while I retreated to the ropes, lolled about for a while and had a think about the second query.

    Just how great really was George Foreman? The question intrigued 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 ‘cool’ 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 seventh on my own all-time list, just a notch below Jim Jeffries, and I look at the names of those two titans constantly and sometimes wonder if I should have them higher. 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 recognise 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 who ever stepped into the prize ring, and I am talking 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 220lbs, 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 a 360lb Wladimir Klitscko 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 I interviewed him a few years ago and we finally got around to 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.

    Exception

    The enormous frustration of the Ali disaster is that George Foreman so nearly reached the finishing 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 thirty-seven mainly nondescript opponents and then similarly crushing a genuinely great champion in Joe Frazier in the acid test that was supposed to find him out 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 utilise 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. 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.

    In 1970, at Madison Square Garden, Foreman stopped Boone Kirkman in two brutal rounds, weighing 216lbs to Boone’s 203. 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 favour. 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?

    My good friend and fellow historian Mike Hunnicut studies hours of quality film in his painstaking analyses 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 co-ordination. He also threw himself further off balance by over-extending 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.

    For all that, 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 behaviour. He tortured some opponents in the ring 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 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 monumental 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. But you have to work damn hard at it, study hours of film and research and not play favourites.

    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?

    In the fantasy world of an 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.

    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 humour.

    Mike Casey is a boxing journalist and historian and a staff writer with Boxing Scene. He is a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) and founder and editor of the Grand Slam Premium Boxing Service for historians and fans (www.grandslampage.net).

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Very well done piece. Although I disagree.

    I beleive Foreman definitely makes the top 10 and in my own personal Heavyweight top 10, Foreman slides in at #5.

    Just my opinion. I could be wrong.

    Hawk

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom
    Almost The Man: But Big George Is Not A Top Five Heavyweight

    By Mike Casey from Boxing Scene

    But he was lacking in mental strength and self-belief.
    Well, Mr. Casey is treading on dangerous ground here since Big George is one of my fav fighters ever. He did a credible job looking at what turned out to be a one off, very mysterious kind of career. In most respects, he surpassed Ali as a huckster and is more popular with the American public and probably earned more and is worth more than any man in boxing history, though a few have more ring earnings than him.

    However, George always had some self doubt in his first career that he kept hidden from the public. He was human like us all, though a monster in the ring. He almost queered the Frazier fight he was so scared. He also knew that the trappings of being a heavy champ were leading him astray from his moral and religious convictions, then add on the Ali upset and Don King yanking him around, and that's enough to upset any young man from his throne.

    The punching power thing is nice, but is always subjective. George probably landed as hard as any punches ever, but his forte was more than just the force of the blow, it was the sheer menace and strength of the way he did it. Sorta like a better skilled Sam Peter. He was actually a decent boxer, but his handlers would always work him into a frenzy before a fight, dehydrating him 24 hours before a match, so he was never mentally in condition to box or develop much ring strategy nor did his corner provide him with much.

    I also disagree with the premise that he had a bad strategy. He was winning on points, had hurt Ali badly enough that when George tired Ali couldn't do much with him. He was just the victim of circumstance because he was cut and couldn't really spar the month before the delayed fight happened. Like I pointed out, Ali rabbit punched him after he missed with a punch and had his neck draped over the ropes. It was a clear foul, one that Ali had tried the round before the ref stepped in before he could carry it out. With his neck compressed on the ropes his caratid arteries constricted so when he bounced up and turned around he was primed for the Ali combination. Even so George was up at the end of the count it was that close.

    Ironically Ali was rabbit punched by Wepner all night in the next fight and looked like hell the whole night, sorta of a preamble of his last years in the ring.

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    Nicely Done, Mike

    To penalize or not to penalize; its a sensitive, purely opinionated point.

    Foreman lost during his prime to Ali, which should n' does count against his legacy, but in terms of the learning phase that could of been what John Lester Johnson was to Dempsey -- Foreman was forever a raw piece of work during his initial career.

    It's not out of the question though that the crude destroyer who is best remembered for unmercifully bludgeoning 'Smokin Joe to the canvas was the best, most potent, efficient, effective fighter he could ever be.

    With Foreman there always looked like there was something to add, perhaps if he paced himself more like Middleweight slugger Nigel Benn learned to do he may have faired better in other scenarios, but it probably would have proved only marginal.

    For such a well known Heavyweight, rankings of George Foreman are the most random -- there are those in awe of his comeback vs. those who scowl upon his crude handiwork.

    I rate Foreman below Jeffries, as I rate the latter #1, but that's another story.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Extremely well written,thought out, and insightful. That George could have blasted out anyman to come to him is not a question. The posibility of such, as Mr. Casey outlined, may have been slightly less than otherwise perhaps against a Jeffries or a Dempsey or someone of that caliber. In a punch out I personally would favor Jeffries,Dempsey,Louis,and Liston and perhaps Baer.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    The big thing with george was those uppercuts of his. And nobody is going to land uppercuts on a focused, in shape muhammad ali or a prime jimmy young.
    So that left him with his other punches and he still managed to be quite competitve.

    Lots of heavyweights don't look so good when you take away their best punch--look at a shavers if you circle away and take away the right hand like holmes did in their first bout. Or douglas working behind a jab to take away tyson's left.

    But that foreman could throw a picture perfect left uppercut and how many heavyweights can do that? He even throws it, or his right uppercut from time to time, off the wrong foot even and it still has tons of power.

    While I don't think George had the snap of a Joe Louis for a single shot, he would land a shot to stun a guy. And he was on the opponent like a shark sensing blood when a guy was hurt and would keep swinging those wrecking balls, like frazier called them. After stunning a guy, foreman would fire off a left hook or right hand or those uppercuts and it'd be all over. He was an excellent finisher and that's what really counts more than punching power anyway. You'd have to consider foreman as one of the best finishers and up there with Marciano and Louis and Dempsey and Ali.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    The big thing with george was those uppercuts of his. And nobody is going to land uppercuts on a focused, in shape muhammad ali or a prime jimmy young.
    So that left him with his other punches and he still managed to be quite competitve.

    Lots of heavyweights don't look so good when you take away their best punch--look at a shavers if you circle away and take away the right hand like holmes did in their first bout. Or douglas working behind a jab to take away tyson's left.

    But that foreman could throw a picture perfect left uppercut and how many heavyweights can do that? He even throws it, or his right uppercut from time to time, off the wrong foot even and it still has tons of power.

    While I don't think George had the snap of a Joe Louis for a single shot, he would land a shot to stun a guy. And he was on the opponent like a shark sensing blood when a guy was hurt and would keep swinging those wrecking balls, like frazier called them. After stunning a guy, foreman would fire off a left hook or right hand or those uppercuts and it'd be all over. He was an excellent finisher and that's what really counts more than punching power anyway. You'd have to consider foreman as one of the best finishers and up there with Marciano and Louis and Dempsey and Ali.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Strange it seems to me but at times all fighters go through a stage of being pulled to pieces by writers and experts or so called experts (Not putting you Mike in the so called experts category) because most of what i have seen so far in your take on Charles, Walker etc etc i go along with. Having said that i think your being a little hard on Foreman who i think most of the top five HWs would avoid if possable or at least there manager would not be to keen on a match up with him.I think there is no doubt that Big George lacked staying power in his early days but most times of course because of his power he never had to worry about distance fights. He had enough other tools to make most wary of him.

    Is he top five HW maybe, maybe not. Myself i think Ali and Louis take the number one and two spot. With regard to the rest Dempsey, Marciano, Holmes etc etc. Well any of them could end up being the next three in a top five including Big George. As for Frazier's two losses to Big George. Foreman might have done the same to Frazier in four out of five meetings. Although in Joe's favour and of course its only my opinion i dont thing he was ever quite the same fighter as the prime one who beat Ali in their first meeting.
    Last edited by wildhawke11; 04-29-2006 at 11:41 AM.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Wildehawke, I agree with everything you just said. So where is it that we are supposed to differ?

    I tell you this honestly - I have shaken hands with and interviewed a great many fighters - George was the gentleman of them all - a thoroughly nice man when you get him away from all that grilling machine crap.

    We're talking fractions here, Hawk. The article was in no way a derogrtory shot at George. As I believe I made clear, I think Foreman would be a huge test for anyone on his best day.

    Lovely man, awesome champion, a genuine five star all-time great. Not Top 5 though, if we're being serious about it.

    All the best,

    Mike

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    hey

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Interesting..some points...

    Level of opposition...Foreman fought much better heavyweights than Jeffries. Jeffries fought and defeated great fighters, not heavyweights. His best heavyweight win was over an 185 pound Sharkey.

    Foreman's all time ranking...lower top ten. He could have been top five but was not because of the classic "if I knew then (when young) what I know now (older)" . As a young fighter Foreman lacked the mental discipline/maturity to maximize his exceptional physical skills. In his comeback he maximized what remained of them. Neither combination merits top five ranking.

    Power ranking...very interesting discussion...however, where was Fitz ranked on that one - two foot range discussion ? At the end of the day. be it two inches or three feet a punch is thrown, it's the impact when it lands...Foreman's power was amazing. The Firpo KO is mentioned but not the other six times he got up or Willard's seven. My point is that there are very few one punch KO's...Marciano's of Walcott is great but what about the dozen's he took to wear out LaStarza or Cockell ?

    Regardless, nice piece. Thanks to Bucket for posting it. He is consistently posting interesting articles to keep the debates fresh and moving forward...
    Last edited by HE Grant; 04-30-2006 at 08:54 PM.

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    George Is A Top 5 Heavyweight

    Do you really think Marciano hits harder than Foreman? After his first two years as a pro when his competition was less than stellar how many first and second round knockouts did Marciano have? There is little difference between Foreman and Marciano's level of competition after that. Foreman had 33 ko's inside the first two rounds and 46 inside 3 rounds. Overall George knocked out better competition inside 2 rounds in his career than did Marciano. No way is Rocky a harder hitter than Foreman.

    For an opposing view:

    George Foreman: King of The Superheavyweights

    -Monte

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    Re: George Is A Top 5 Heavyweight

    Read it already, Monte, as indeed I have read all your fine articles. You write about Gans/Louis with great knowledge and eloquence and I have never known you to 'cheaply' demean Marciano or any other fighter.

    Let's agree to disagree on Rocky/George - but please, ease up on the constant references to your website. I think most of us are aware by now of where Cox's Corner is.

    Far be it from me to plant a devilish seed in your mind, but how about this: How Joe Louis would have beaten Jack Johnson by Monte Cox.

    If you're up for that, I'll publish it with all credit to your goodself on my own site.

    Best wishes, Bomber,

    Mike

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    We

    hear all the time how fighters, especially Heavyweights, are often "not the same" after their first loss..when that loss happens after they have risen to championship level. I remember hearing that Pinklon Thomas and/or his confidence was supposedly 'ruined' by his loss to Berbick. (Ignoring that losing to Berbick was close to criminal for a fighter allegedly as talented as Thomas).

    Gerry Cooney was ruined by his fight with Holmes, and the whole burden he supposedly carried. That's what the papers said anyway.

    Ray Mercer losing to Holmes finished him as a truly deadly serious contender. Or was he never really one to begin with? (Lennox Lewis: you forgot you were 6'5" when you fought Ray)

    John Tate. David Bey. More interested in winning a "Just Happy To Be Here" award or exposed as not so good to begin with? Did their loss make them become mediocre or were they all along?

    Here we have George Foreman. His "stamina issue" or limitations exposed by perhaps THE toughest man to deal with in heavyweight history: Ali. Proceed to Lyle, a fight in which he won as Hawk points out. (Compare this fight to Dempsey v. Firpo. Both men were hit by punches out of nowhere while in their monster mode. Dempsey ran into a homerun shot in the first 20 seconds. Yet he won. Foreman was hit by shots that would flatten most men..yet he won). Then the Young bout, where George collapses against boxing's version of trying to grip oil.

    If we focus on the loss to Ali, I'd like to mention that what that fight really tells me is that Foreman was not as good as Ali..the strong, durable, tough as nails, mentally unflappable, wise, experienced Ali. A Larry Holmes from his formative years thrust into a bout with that Ali, say, right around after beating Norton, would likely lose to Ali as well. Joe Louis survives Godoy but falls to Ali. That Ali. Maybe not. Maybe. However, I do not think such a loss would expose Larry for example as definitively unable to deal with another strong personality in the ring per se. It probably would be panned, an idea that a loss to Ali disqualified Larry from top 5 consideration on it's own. The Bomber would be embraced as top 5 had he lost to an Ali, because the loss porbably would have been afforded to Ali's credit. George is treated like his loss was a case of Ali hoodwinking him, exposing him as all but a totally flawed. It helps George perhaps sleep at night to at once give credit to Ali for the magic act, and agree that he blew it.

    To move to now a top 5..and playing some sort of advocate to some sort of devil, I wonder if the "top 5" exists before the fighters that fill it...(note the dots, my style since 1999) making me ask does George not fit what some want to have in a top 5? Does the top 5 require creativity in placing within it fighters that are difficult to advance for weaknesses regardless of a true look at the competition or such. Or does George not make the top 5 because of the 5 that are there?

    Let's remember that it was Ali that hung the loss on George. After which, could he not be given the benefit of excuses that come the way of other fighters when trying to protect their legend? Or placement in some top 5?

    Just thinking. Just curious.
    Last edited by Sharkey; 05-02-2006 at 11:04 AM.

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    Re: We

    Sharkey, you weigh in here with your usual intelligence and perception. Don't disagree with you on most of this. The article wasn't intended as a 'hatchet job' on Big George. On his day, that so-and-so could have rolled over anyone. I believe I make that clear.

    But rightly or wrongly, we just remember certain things. Louis DIDN'T get beaten like George did in Zaire. Nor did Dempsey. Nor did Marciano. Perhaps those guys just got lucky, but they didn't lose the 'big ones' in their prime.

    As a fellow limey of Lennox Lewis (when he wasn't from Jamaica, Canada or America) I would love nothing more than to beat the drum for Lennox as a true great. But he got knocked cold by Rahman in a downright sloppy, lazy, ill-prepared performance. Louis got scattered by Galento, but he got up and knocked Tony out.

    For me, there lies the difference, fairly or unfairly.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    I agree Mike. Yet, I am not as sold on analogous performances involving men who aren't analogous being the thing that might tip the scale of judgment. It WAS Ali after all...and if the men beofre didn't fizzle like George did, they also maybe survived where George, if faced with Ezz or Tony, similarly either wouldn't have needed to, or would have similarly cruised forward despite facing an issue.

    As for Lennox, it probably reveals indeed that if he was hit really hard he could be KO'd. And was. That it happened to him counts. It also should serve to make Rahman similarly more than Galento using the same analysis. Yet I am not sure the analysis is sound! It makes me dizzy.

    But I agree with you that analysis has to start somewhere and cannot spill like an amoeba until it cannot be defined at all.

    Good points.
    Last edited by Sharkey; 05-02-2006 at 12:04 PM.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    You got it, Shark - bloody good fun all this sparring, eh?

    Alas, I must rest now due to an oncoming migraine!!

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Everything in boxing is subjective, bottom line.

    Your rankings are just a mirror of where you draw the line on different criteria, with bias or without.

    I'd like to think of Mike's articles as handles to prompt engaging discussion rather than be received like the proverbial axe that must be grinded.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    well said.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Slaughters Smokin Joe and Norton, takes Muhammad Ali to beat him, and 20 years later he knocks out The Man to regain the title at 45.

    Foreman is simply one of the best ever and his results piss over any number of defences against the Roland LaStarzas and Gerry Cooneys, or any lengthy Bum of the Month campaign.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Lets also rember Rocky Marciano was learning on the job in his first 16 or so fights, Foreman had a gold medel and had a better start than Marciano had.

    Marciano does not just have Walcott.

    He also smash Rex Layne with one punch, and he drop Harry Kid Matthews for the full count.

    Also there are many storys of Rocky Marciano scoreing 1 punch kos in his early bouts. Regardless what round it happen.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Quote Originally Posted by Overhand_Right
    Slaughters Smokin Joe and Norton, takes Muhammad Ali to beat him, and 20 years later he knocks out The Man to regain the title at 45.

    Foreman is simply one of the best ever and his results piss over any number of defences against the Roland LaStarzas and Gerry Cooneys, or any lengthy Bum of the Month campaign.

    I would not put Roland LaSarza in the same class as Gerry Cooney. LarSarza was rank number 1 when he fought Marciano for the title(Plus a close first fight with Rocky)

    I think on Roland's good day, he could beat Foreman in the same fashion that Jimmy Young did. Also LarSarza was a pretty good boxer in his own right, and unlike face first Cooney. Roland would not be easy to find.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    This is how I feel about Big George.

    I like all Mike Casey's stuff and he is truly a great boxing historian and it is always an honor for me to be included on his great website.

    As a fellow boxing historian we all analyze fighters with great in depth perception, we break down their arsenal and dissect the effectiveness of their reportoir against the greats of yore. The names of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson have such power along with Dempsey, Marciano et that the names themselves resonate a power on their own.

    When one puts all that aside, I think of what I felt inside watching Foreman in the ring from the Olympics until his last bout. I know what it took to poleaxe Frazier twice, Norton, Lyle, Chuvalo, Kirkman, Moorer and the rest.

    Its all styles and once you put anyone of the past champions in the ring with him and they start swinging away to stay alive, Big George is solidly in the top 10.

    Between him, Tyson and Liston, letting loose at their zenith without any sordid mob background interference from anyone, the golden names of old and all who hold them dear would be in for a sad shock.

    Tyson, Liston, Foreman and Lennox Lewis would be a vicious force of destruction a veritable Wolf pack among the sheep. Louis, Dempsey, Marciano, Johnson are solid, but the power and size of the aforementioned fistic warriors would sadly change things very quickly in boxing history if the dream matches were real.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Lipton
    This is how I feel about Big George.

    I like all Mike Casey's stuff and he is truly a great boxing historian and it is always an honor for me to be included on his great website.

    As a fellow boxing historian we all analyze fighters with great in depth perception, we break down their arsenal and dissect the effectiveness of their reportoir against the greats of yore. The names of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson have such power along with Dempsey, Marciano et that the names themselves resonate a power on their own.

    When one puts all that aside, I think of what I felt inside watching Foreman in the ring from the Olympics until his last bout. I know what it took to poleaxe Frazier twice, Norton, Lyle, Chuvalo, Kirkman, Moorer and the rest.

    Its all styles and once you put anyone of the past champions in the ring with him and they start swinging away to stay alive, Big George is solidly in the top 10.

    Between him, Tyson and Liston, letting loose at their zenith without any sordid mob background interference from anyone, the golden names of old and all who hold them dear would be in for a sad shock.

    Tyson, Liston, Foreman and Lennox Lewis would be a vicious force of destruction a veritable Wolf pack among the sheep. Louis, Dempsey, Marciano, Johnson are solid, but the power and size of the aforementioned fistic warriors would sadly change things very quickly in boxing history if the dream matches were real.
    Ron- who do you take between prime Liston and prime Foreman and why?

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Quote Originally Posted by greek1237
    I would not put Roland LaSarza in the same class as Gerry Cooney. LarSarza was rank number 1 when he fought Marciano for the title(Plus a close first fight with Rocky)

    I think on Roland's good day, he could beat Foreman in the same fashion that Jimmy Young did. Also LarSarza was a pretty good boxer in his own right, and unlike face first Cooney. Roland would not be easy to find.
    Cooney, for all his faults, was a much more formidable heavyweight than Lastarza. After a lengthy layoff while still being a young heavyweight in the learning curve, he was still able to give Holmes a close fight.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Quote Originally Posted by Surf-Bat
    Ron- who do you take between prime Liston and prime Foreman and why?

    R. Hi buddy,

    I met them both and spent time with them both and my terminator radar eyeballs tell me without the mob guys calling the shots, at their destructive best, I go with Charles "Sonny" Liston, his hands, his jab, his mental outlook,
    his reach and his superior arsenal of shorter punches, iron jaw and true killer instinct would prevail. The extra 2 inches in height would not help George and he would be slightly intimidated by Sonny from having met him before.

    Liston was too ferocious in there when he was on top taking out Folley, DeJohn, Williams twice, Patterson twice but in that ring anything can happen and Foreman showed plenty of guts against Lyle and Alex Stewart.

    Both were heavy handed guys and big raw boned monsters for their height and weight. They both seem more intimidating than a much bigger Lennox Lewis.

    Liston was truly a force of cranky mean, and Big George in the day was no Santa Claus either. Liston would chop the kid down.

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    Re: We

    "Gerry Cooney was ruined by his fight with Holmes, and the whole burden he supposedly carried. That's what the papers said anyway."

    Actually, Gerry was ruined by drugs. He was already abusing prior to Holmes.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Lipton
    R. Hi buddy,

    I met them both and spent time with them both and my terminator radar eyeballs tell me without the mob guys calling the shots, at their destructive best, I go with Charles "Sonny" Liston, his hands, his jab, his mental outlook,
    his reach and his superior arsenal of shorter punches, iron jaw and true killer instinct would prevail. The extra 2 inches in height would not help George and he would be slightly intimidated by Sonny from having met him before.

    Liston was too ferocious in there when he was on top taking out Folley, DeJohn, Williams twice, Patterson twice but in that ring anything can happen and Foreman showed plenty of guts against Lyle and Alex Stewart.

    Both were heavy handed guys and big raw boned monsters for their height and weight. They both seem more intimidating than a much bigger Lennox Lewis.

    Liston was truly a force of cranky mean, and Big George in the day was no Santa Claus either. Liston would chop the kid down.
    This might indeed be how it would pan out, but I wouldn't believe that prime George would be even a bit scared of Liston. He wasn't scared of Ali, who was twice Liston's conqueror. At 19, being intimidated by Liston while a sparring partner fresh out of the amateurs is one thing, but I doubt George would even blink at Sonny when he was Frazier's destroyer at age 24.

    Foreman was faster than what I have seen of Sonny on tape (which is a dozen fights or so), and young George looked quite a bit bigger than Liston (Ali was bigger than Liston, and Norton was Ali's size; George was noticeably bigger than both of the latter).

    I admit there's more to this than size, but nothing that I saw of Liston makes me think he'd beat a 1973-74 Foreman. Certainly one punch could change all that, of course. Twice stopping Patterson in 1 round, with Floyd an under-rated and very talented warrior, is impressive, but I see George doing it just as easily. I also don't see any-aged version of Foreman being KOd by Leotis Martin.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    [QUOTE=Michael Frank:This might indeed be how it would pan out, but I wouldn't believe that prime George would be even a bit scared of Liston. He wasn't scared of Ali, who was twice Liston's conqueror. At 19, being intimidated by Liston while a sparring partner fresh out of the amateurs is one thing, but I doubt George would even blink at Sonny when he was Frazier's destroyer at age 24.

    [B]So we're comparing the Liston who lost to Ali to the Foreman who fought Frazier? Hardly fair, MF

    Don't forget GF admitting his knees were knocking while Frazier stared him down. Makes you wonder what his knees would have been doing were it Liston staring back at him that day.

    Ali was bigger than Liston

    No, he was TALLER. If you look at the tale of the tape Sonny has him in just about every category(chest, thighs, arms, etc.). He was a bigger man. In fact Sonny also outstrips prime George in tale of the tape as well except in weight.
    Last edited by Surf-Bat; 11-08-2009 at 06:31 AM.

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    Re: ALMOST THE MAN: BUT BIG GEORGE IS NOT A TOP 5 HEAVYWEIGHT by Mike Casey

    [QUOTE=Michael Frank]
    Foreman was faster than what I have seen of Sonny on tape (which is a dozen fights or so)

    You and I have already gone back and forth on this one, so I won't belabor TOO much ....but I am still at a loss to understand how you could watch films of these two in their primes and not see that in no way are Foreman's obscenely wide, telegraphed, ponderous arcing shots in the same speed category as Liston's much straighter blows. Oh well....

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