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Savant Sundays: The power and ferocity of George Foreman

George Foreman was one of the most fearsome fighters in heavyweight history, and the topic of this week’s feature.

George Foreman was one of the most fearsome fighters in heavyweight history
George Foreman was one of the most fearsome fighters in heavyweight history

George Foreman was one scary behemoth of a man. At 6’4”, 240-plus lb giant, the correctly nicknamed “Big George” came out of Houston, Tex., and won the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. As a pro, he instantly became one of the most daunting fighters in the world, and took the heavyweight division by storm.

Fighting out of the orthodox stance, Foreman was surprisingly light on his feet. He could fight on flat feet, or bounce around and move with the best of them. His hooks to the body would knock the wind out of opponents, and open them up for knockout punches.

Many times, Foreman would fight with open gloves, almost resembling a UFC fighter. He seldom looked tense in his fights, and for someone throwing many open or semi-open handed punches, his ability to generate power like that and turn them into knockouts was superb.

Achilles’ Heel

As brutish and frightening of a fighter that Foreman was, there were a couple of holes to his craftsmanship. Firstly, Foreman didn’t have the fastest hands. He almost always had the strongest hands, and the longest reach, but against fighters like Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Young, and later in his career, Michael Moorer, he was proven to be the slower fighter on many occasions.

His punches could also be wild and errant at times. This doesn’t take away from his precision with the shots he landed, but from time to time, he could’ve strayed away from aimlessly throwing into the wind.

Lastly, his lateral movement left much to be desired. While he was good at ducking, his side-to-side movement just was not there at all.


Foreman had a very good defense. In his first stint, he had a habit of deflecting punches with his gloves, almost as if he were a boxing trainer with pads. He’d catch punches and redirect them, swinging his arms as if to absorb and then release the kinetic energy of the blows.

In his second stint, Foreman went to the cross-body formation a la Ken Norton, where he’d take both his arms and cross them over his face, with his gloves at his ears. Foreman also fell in love with pushing his opponents to create space whenever they’d get in close or try to clinch. He had the juice in that regard, as almost no one could match his strength to forbid him from doing so.

Foreman was textbook at leaning back and dodging jabs, especially in his first go-round with boxing, and if one is being objective, his best defense was relentless offense.

George Foreman vs Joe Frazier 1


Foreman stepped to Joe Frazier at 37-0 (34 KO), with Frazier at unblemished 29-0 and the recognized world champion, defeating the likes of Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, and Muhammad Ali leading up to the bout.

All of the achievements of “Smokin’” Joe were almost forgotten once the bell sounded. Frazier showed fearlessness, gyrating around looking for devastating shots. But the only fighter who got them off was Foreman; Frazier was able to land a left hook early, and a jab that snapped Foreman’s head back, but that was it.

Foreman scored bellowing, sweeping crosses to Frazier’s body, and Big George dropped him with an uppercut in the first. Foreman had 10-to-15 consecutive straights and uppercuts that landed. He made Frazier’s legs buckle and made him see stars with too many devastating blows, stopping the fight after six knockdowns inside of two rounds, three in the first and three in the second.

George Foreman vs Ken Norton


14 months after dethroning Frazier, Foreman faced Ken Norton. With only two losses on his record, Norton was fresh off of two bouts against Muhammad Ali, the latter of which he lost, and came into the ring swinging his head around, getting loose, ready to rumble.

He would rumble, and then tumble to the ground in the second round with a knockout shot from Foreman. It was a game of jabs early, and Foreman was slow to pack a punch, but not for long. He seasoned Norton with uppercuts, which made Norton retaliate with a left hook and left jab that connected.

Norton would throw combos, but was tentative, which worked to his detriment. Foreman got him against the ropes, and hunted his prey, hurting him with a barrage culminating in a right hand that hurt Norton, before delivering two uppercuts that left Norton googly-eyed, and hooks that displaced his head, and spot in contention for the title.

George Foreman vs Jimmy Young

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The 1977 fight started off slow in the early rounds, with Young a bit more active and taking two of the first three rounds on my card, despite limited activity. A fourth round with ramped up punch counts was a bit too close to call.

Foreman was clearly the inferior fighter when it came to hand speed and counterpunching. While Foreman had every punch in his bag, Young was able to show what confidence, timing, skills, and speed — when put together — can do to even the most disquieting fighter.

Foreman was able to land a lot with his arsenal of devastating punches, but even when up against the ropes, Young displayed a great shell defense, and fought back with two rights that hurt George in the seventh, and an uppercut and left cross that looked more like a slap than a punch. Nevertheless, it had the crowd chanting Young’s name.

In the 10th round, Foreman showed dexterity by burying his head into Young’s chest, and threw those patented wide body shots, giving him the round. But fatigue would set in for Foreman, who dropped the last two rounds and hung his head in defeat after a knockdown in round 12, knowing he lost. Young took home the unanimous decision.

George Foreman vs Michael Moorer

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Most 45-year-old men start complaining to their doctors about slowing down, about knee pain, hip soreness, stiffness in their joints. George Foreman was challenging for the heavyweight title once again, and looking in solid shape for his age.

This affair was the antecedent to the first fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Moorer outboxed Foreman up and down the ring for nine rounds. His jab was quicker, his lateral movement showed the discrepancy in age, his counterpunching was more effective. Foreman looked slow, with dampened reflexes, but one thing was there, and that was his signature power.

Sometimes when watching fights, we don’t really see just how powerful each punch thrown is unless the other fighter staggers or gets the sweat knocked off his head. Foreman was throwing unbelievable blows throughout the fight, even though Moorer was constantly more active and more precise. In the 10th round, Foreman made Moorer respect his elders, as the defending titleholder walked right into a jab that smashed his face, and a right hand that bloodied his nose and mouth, leaving him looking around like a compass with magnetic interference.


Only Mike Tyson has a claim to being the more devastating puncher in heavyweight history. As previously noted, Foreman had each boxing punch down. He was sizable and technically sound. On the other hand, his hand speed and upper body movement would work against him when facing quick and powerful fighters.

Foreman had the size of a Lennox Lewis, yet the aggression many wish the Brit had. He had the knockout power of a Deontay Wilder, but knew how and when to throw his haymakers and was much more pugilistically sound. Foreman is one of the greatest fighters in boxing history, and the way he put legends to sleep keeps him among the most feared as well.

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