The Most Remarkable Feat By Any Heavyweight
10.01.05 - By Frank Lotierzo - GlovedFist@Juno.com - When thinking about some of heavyweight histories most remarkable accomplishments, a few immediately stand out and come to mind. Such as former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retiring undefeated at 49-0. It's been 50 years since Rocky retired and only two former champs have made it to forty wins without suffering a loss. George Foreman was 40-0 when he was upset by Muhammad Ali in 1974. And Larry Holmes, who is the only fighter to even challenge Marciano's record reaching 48-0, was upset by Michael Spinks in 1985 in his forty ninth bout.
Article posted on 10.01.2005
Joe Louis' 25 consecutive title defenses, a record for any division which still stands 56 years later has to be in the conversation as well. Another mark only challenged by Holmes who made 20 consecutive title defenses. Maybe Spinks in becoming the first light heavyweight champ to defeat the reigning heavyweight champion preserved both historical marks set by Louis and Marciano.
Two other heavyweight achievements must also be acknowledged. Mike Tyson being the youngest to win the heavyweight title at age 20, and George Foreman winning the title at 45. However, Louis, Marciano, Foreman, and Tyson fall a little short when compared to what I think is the most impressive feat by a heavyweight fighter. Before getting into that, think for a moment who is your biggest and toughest friend as a street fighter who has never been trained as a boxer.
Now try and imagine him training for a couple months and having his first amateur fight in January of 2007. After not getting off to a great start he gets discouraged and quits boxing for a brief time and then returns. In his comeback he realizes success and a couple months later he wins the city Golden Gloves heavyweight competition in the Junior division.
The following year he's the National AAU heavyweight champ. He follows that up by winning the U.S. Olympic Trials and represents his Country in the heavyweight division at the Summer Olympics. With some where around 20 fights experience as an amateur, in October 2008 he wins four fights, three by knockout and wins the Gold Medal at the 2008 Games. Is that something else or what. I don't care how big or bad your buddy or my buddy is, it ain't happening. Were talking about a fighter with less than two years total boxing experience and he beats the World's premier amateur heavyweight's. And the fighter's who represent the Eastern block Countries are amateur in title only. They are really pro's who only fight three rounds.
If you haven't guessed, I'm talking about the amazing accomplishment of 19 year old George Foreman in October of 1968 at the Summer Games in Mexico City. Foreman, who was a street fighter and beat up adults as a 14 year old did just that. What's even more impressive is he did it at a time when amateur boxing was experiencing a golden era. Amateur boxing programs and tournaments were huge in the States until about the very early nineties. Since the decade of the nineties, there aren't as many amateur shows and programs leading the bigger athletes into Football and Basketball.
When Foreman had to go through the ranks as an amateur in the late sixties, the competition was much more stacked with better fighters. Fighters today that are more likely to end up as safeties and linebackers in the NFL and point guards and small forwards in the NBA.
In January of 1967 George Foreman fought his first amateur fight. In October of 1968 he represented the United States in the boxing competition fighting as a heavyweight in the Olympics. A majority of the fighters Foreman faced were had years of experience and were closer to being pro's than they were amateurs. In his Gold Medal winning fight he stopped 29 year old Russian Ionas Chapulis in the second round. At the time the Russian fighter had over eight year's experience fighting Internationally. For anyone who doesn't fully understand what an advantage that is, check the International record of some of the top U.S. fighters before they ever qualified for the Trials, if they made it that far.
Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier lost to Buster Mathis in the Olympic Trials and made the team only when Mathis injured his hand. Frazier wasn't the most experienced fighter either, but he was further along then Foreman when he won a Gold Medal at the 1964 Games as an alternate. And former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson had over five years fighting experience under his belt and didn't even make the U.S. Olympic team as a result of losing twice to Henry Tillman in the 1984 Trials.
In the case of George Foreman, he wins a Gold Medal at a time when amateur boxing throughout the world is in full bloom and peaking. And he accomplishes this after only boxing for one year and ten months and less than 20 amateur wins under his belt. And he did it with mostly sheer brute strength and toughness. Truly Remarkable!
Tyson winning the heavyweight title five months after turning 20 is nothing short of astonishing. However, he had been boxing for over seven years and had more attention paid to his training and development from day one then ranked heavyweight's on the verge of a title shot get. Foreman fought his first amateur fight in January of 1967 and six years later demolished undisputed heavyweight champion Joe Frazier 29-0 (25) in January of 1973.
Marciano's 49-0 is also impressive. And the fact that it has stood so long and has only been challenged once by Holmes says something for it. After Holmes, Foreman is the only other heavyweight champ to reach 40-0. On top of that it endured through the likes of Ali, Frazier, Tyson, Holyfield, and Lewis who all made it to at least 25-0. Rocky's record is monumental, but not quite equal to Foreman's.
Joe Louis 25 successful heavyweight title defenses has stood for 56 years, and is a record number for any weight division. But with all the splintered and alphabet titles popping up, I wouldn't be shocked to see if it is surpassed one day.
It just may be that the two most impressive heavyweight achievements have been realized by the same fighter. George Foreman winning the heavyweight title at age 45, and only two months short of turning 46 is something that will be around for a long time and is off the charts. That being said, what Foreman did 26 years earlier when he won the world amateur heavyweight Gold Medal less than two years after being exposed to boxing is the most remarkable.
Foreman is not only in Don King's league as a salesman and con-man, he realized what I believe are the two most impressive achievements in heavyweight history. Regardless of your feeling about Foreman the fighter and person, the man has been nothing short of impressive.
This week George Foreman turns 56 years old on January 10th. Happy Birthday Champ !
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