George Foreman was scared of one man in the ring, as revealed in a resurfaced interview.
‘Big’ George won Gold at the Olympics before making his mark on the heavyweight scene, in a career that would see the 6’4″ heavyweight win 76 from 81, 68 inside the distance.
Despite being a fearsome puncher himself, he didn’t cruise through his career unfazed.
In a clip from a 1990 interview with Johnny Carson, the hall of fame heavyweight spoke of his knee-trembling fear when facing ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
“It’s strange. I wasn’t afraid of Muhammad [Ali.] I lost the title to Muhammad, but I remember Joe Frazier – he was the toughest guy I ever seen. Smokin’ Joe Frazier. My mother watched him fight on television and he hit a guy so hard the guy turned his back.
And I kept thinking ‘I want to be champion of the world but I sure hope Joe Frazier die.’ It was time to fight Joe Frazier, and I knew if you hit him he liked it and if you missed him he’d get upset – and I’m thinking what am I gonna do?
I had this habit of staring guys down. I look them in the eyes to psyche them out. If they dropped their head I knew I had an advantage, but I was hoping Joe Frazier wouldn’t drop his head because my knees were shaking.”
Frazier was known for a mean left hand, a victory over Muhammad Ali and had 25 knockouts on his record ahead of the fight, but Foreman overcame his fear in quite spectacular fashion – twice.
Their first bout was in Jamaica for Frazier’s undisputed heavyweight title. Foreman knocked the champion down six times in two rounds, winning the fight via TKO.
He’d take longer for the same outcome in the second fight. The pair agreed to a rematch having both been beaten by Ali in the intervening years.
‘The Battle of The Gladiators’ in New York saw five rounds of action, with Foreman eventually breaking through Frazier’s guard and scoring two knockdowns before ‘Smokin’ Joe’s corner pulled him out.
Frazier wouldn’t fight for five years before a punishing comeback draw against Floyd Cummings saw him retired for good in 1981.
Foreman banked four more wins before retiring from the sport – although he was to return ten years later to become the oldest heavyweight champion in history at 46 years old.