Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

When the Heavyweights were Kings

Posted on October 13, 2017 by Robert Oldman

Ali-ForemanBoxing has a proud history and growing up in the 1970s, there was nothing that could top the battle for the World Heavyweight title and the return of Muhammad Ali.  The division has had its problems in recent years but there’s a long way to go before it can reach the great heights of that decade.

For starters, the division wasn’t split with several world champions as it is now.  When you asked anyone who the World Heavyweight Champion was, they’d give you just one name, whether that be legends such as Joe Frazier, George Foreman and of course the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali.

Ali Returns

The 1970s had begun with controversy over the World Heavyweight title with the undefeated Joe Frazier as champion and Muhammad Ali still suspended over his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war. As soon as that suspension was lifted, it was just a matter of time before Ali won his comeback fights and in 1971 challenged Frazier for the title he never lost in the ring. Two unbeaten fighters clashing for the World Heavyweight title, Frazier vs Ali was classes above the current diet of Parker v Fury and the likely fight next year between Joshua and Wilder.

Ali lost that fight but as soon as one major challenger was defeated, another problem arrived for Frazier in the shape of George Foreman. Frazier was destroyed in two rounds by Foreman and being knocked down six times as another legend took over the mantle of World Heavyweight Champion.

Just a look at the top challengers in the early 1970s shows just what an amazing time it was for the division. The likes of Ken Norton, Jerry Quarry, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, George Chuvalo, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner and former champions Jimmy Ellis and Floyd Patterson. Matchmakers were having the time of their lives putting these challengers in eliminators and title challenges.

It wasn’t all about the world title at that time though, the progress of Muhammad Ali after that defeat by Frazier dominated the heavyweight division. His suspension had robbed Ali of the best years of his career and his fantastic speed wasn’t quite so fast in the 70s as it had been in the 60s. It took Ali 14 fights and three years before he got another title shot.

Ali fought all over the world but in 1973 many thought he’d come to the end of the road when losing to Ken Norton and suffering a broken jaw. They don’t call him ‘the Greatest’ for nothing though and he soon avenged that defeat then began 1974 with a points victory over Joe Frazier to finally earn a title shot.

The Rumble in the Jungle

The anticipation for that shot at the seemingly unbeatable George Foreman, in his final defence before taking on Ali, beat Ken Norton in just two rounds. Two men who had both beaten Ali had been destroyed by Foreman in four rounds. The fact the Foreman vs Ali fight took place in Africa added to the amazing excitement that surrounded this fight. Amazingly, Ali did what none of us thought was possible and knocked Foreman out in the eighth round.

The first half of the 1970s truly was a fantastic time for the heavyweight division. There were some great boxers at other weights but the thought of it being the middleweights being in the wealthiest fights just wasn’t there. Hopefully the heavyweight division will rise again but it’s a huge mountain to climb.

Till then you might have to be content with watching the classic fights online. It’d be great to be able to enjoy watching them with great company, that’s what I managed to do by visiting a dating site where it’s easy to meet local singles and have a great time.

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