Scar Tissue Part 5: Going after Goliath
By Jess E. Trail (February 5, 2005) 
Bob Foster
We called it Madison Square Garden. We called it Englewood Forum. We even called it Felt Forum. But it was just the front yard… with a worn spot in the exact shape of a boxing ring and two small trees in opposing corners. This is where my brother and I waged round after round of warfare, the duration of which still amazes me.

There were rules along with our invisible referee and three biased and careless judges – also invisible and better than some professional ones I’ve seen. There was no rabbit punching, no low blows and it was illegal to get really mad.

There was Wilfred Benitez, Carlos Palomino, Eusebio Pedroza, Salvador Sanchez, Bruce Curry, Cornelius Boza Edwards and a host of others who, without their permission or knowledge, fought in that venue – as us. It was illegal to be Sugar Ray Leonard, because he was Superman in our minds, which created an extreme unfair advantage.

One summer I began to enter the ring as Bob Foster. My brother had gotten a size edge on me, and though he lightened it up a little, I was going all-out for the heavyweight crown. After all, as Bob Foster, all I had to do was land my left hook once. And if you ask Vicente Rondon, my right cross spelled lights out as well.

This was also the time that I decided that as a professional I would never go after the Heavyweight crown, but would simply defend my 175 pound belt until retirement.

Bob Foster always fascinated me. I was too young to have see him live and he had retired (1974) just before the sport had grabbed my attention, which, oddly enough, occurred in 1977 when Ken Norton took Duane Bobick apart at Madison Square Garden in 58 seconds.

Foster was tall and lanky. He was actually skinny. Yet, in that unimposing frame, he carried the punch of a generation. He had a great right hand and a left hook that is arguably the most pulverizing punch the light heavies have ever seen. All you have to do is watch footage of his title-winning effort against Dick Tiger in 1968 immediately followed by his bout with Mike Quarry in 1972 on the undercard of Ali’s bout with big brother Jerry on the card billed 'The Soul Brothers vs The Quarry Brothers'.

The concept of a small man taking on a large man is as ancient and storied as any, going back to David and Goliath. Bob Foster seemed such a mismatch for even the best of the light-heavies in his prime that he would seem to have had a chance against the heavyweights of his day. Doug Jones, Ernie Terrell, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali all beat him convincingly and without a final bell.

If someone could line up all the light heavyweight champions who ever challenged for the heavyweight crown and ask me to pick the one with the most chance for success, I would’ve been hard pressed between Roy Jones and Bob Foster (Moore fans, put the wiffle bat down). I can STILL picture Joe Frazier running into a Foster hook, and yes, I know – the film shows a dominant mismatch and a devastating conclusion. The story of that match is the underrated speed of Smokin’ Joe and the short distance that his best hooks traveled. It is a tribute to Frazier, not an insult to Foster.

For any intelligent boxing fan and student of the 175 pound division, Bob Foster MUST be near the top of your list. He was incredible. After his final heavyweight attempt against Muhammad Ali, which ended in the 8th round, he wasn’t quite the same and he retired three fights later after fighting to a draw with Jorge Ahumada.

He came back from retirement in 1978 and I still remember the sour taste in my mouth when I read that Bob Hazelton had knocked out Foster in two rounds. It felt illegal, immoral. I felt that Hazelton should be fined or punished for his actions. Perhaps a public apology would’ve settled it. To this day, the crime remains unpunished.

Looking at the career of Bob Foster, he is sometimes underrated by those who look at what might have happened if he had stiffer opposition. Look, aside from his ill-advised comeback in 1978 at age 39, he hadn’t lost to a light heavy since 1963. All his losses in his prime came while going after the heavies. How many of the light heavyweight champions could’ve beaten Ali and Frazier? His weakness existed in his affection for the belt around Goliath’s waist.

Don’t miss the next edition of Scar Tissue. Recently, while soaking my face in brine, the dream match visions came calling once again. I can’t give a full account yet, because William 'Vampire' Johnson was blocking my view. But judging by the crowd noise, it will be quite a tussle.
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 1: Louis vs. Ali
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 2: Holmes vs. Frazier
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 3: Liston vs. Foreman
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 4: Imposters unmasked
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