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On This Date in Sports January 22, 1973: Down Goes Frazier

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

George Foreman stuns Joe Frazier to win the heavyweight championship with a second-round knockout in Kingston, Jamaica. The two fighters entered the match unbeaten, with Frazier considered a heavy favorite over the challenger. George Foreman came out aggressive and hurt the champion early, knocking him down three times in the first round. The assault continued in the second round as Frazier was clearly getting dominated. After three more knockdowns, the fight was stopped, and Foreman declared the winner.

Born in Philadelphia on January 12, 1944, Joe Frazier was the undisputed king of the mountain in boxing. Frazier ascended to the heavyweight title, while Muhammad Ali was suspended from boxing and addressed his legal battles after refusing to enter the armed forces due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On February 16, 1970, Frazier beat Jimmy Ellis with a fourth-round knockout to win the vacant heavyweight championship in New York’s Madison Square Garden. A year later, Joe Frazier faced Ali, in what many called the fight of the century, winning a 15-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. A rematch between the two heavyweight titans was planned, but first, Joe Frazier had to meet the number one contender George Foreman.

George Foreman, born January 10, 1949, in Houston, Texas, was boxing’s rising star. After winning the Gold Medal at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, Foreman turned pro and tore through the competition, winning his first 37 fights, with 34 coming by knockout.

The fight was held at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, and billed the Sunshine Showdown. While George Foreman, at 37-0, illustrated brute force, most expected Joe Frazier, the 29-0 champion, to win, since he was the better overall boxer who could outlast and win in the late rounds. George Foreman, however, came out like a house on fire and immediately controlled the fight. Less than two minutes into the first round Joe Frazier was knocked down, causing a stunned Howard Cosell to shout, “Down Goes Frazier” while calling the fight. The champion was able to make it to his feet but again was knocked down with 17 seconds left in the first round. After getting up, he would be floored again as the round came to an end. After being saved by the bell, Joe Frazier was clearly hurt as he was preparing for the second round. George Foreman, like a shark smelling blood, continued the attack. Dropping Joe Frazier again early in the round, as Angelo Dundee at ringside pleaded with the referee to stop the fight. Frazier got up but was knocked down two more times, before Arthur Mercante finally made the call at 1:36 of the second round, as George Foreman became the heavyweight champion with a second-round knockout.

Joe Frazier would give Muhammad Ali the rematch fans were waiting for in 1974. Still, the title was not on the line as George Foreman defended the belt twice, before losing the “Rumble in the Jungle” to Ali in October of 1974.