Today is February 23, and that is a significant day for me. Today would have been my “Pop’s” birthday. Today is always bittersweet in that I toast up and crack open a cold one in his memory, yet I miss him dearly and the heartache always sets in year after year.
One fighter that he had a particular fondness for was George Foreman. Now, I figure, what better way is there to commemorate his honor on his birthday than to showcase one of Foreman’s greatest performances. The heavyweight title contest was dubbed “The Sunshine Showdown” and it took place on Jan. 22, 1973. I do not own the rights to the video below, but you may view and enjoy courtesy of Sweet Fights.
Coming into the bout, “Smokin'” Joe Frazier was 29-0 and the undisputed world champion. The 24-year-old Foreman entered the ring with an impressive 37-0 unbeaten record also, making this fight one of the most epic clashes of undefeated fighters. The heavyweight division was incredibly stacked back in that era as well, keep in mind. Frazier broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw just a couple of fights prior in a title defense.
With the nature of these men’s boxing style, fans were bound to see big bombs thrown with a high likelihood of a knockout occurring. They were not disappointed.
“Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” -Howard Cosell, ABC
Foreman successfully finished “Smokin'” Joe in less than two rounds. Howard Cosell’s call with the ABC broadcast on the fight, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!,” after the first knockdown from a right uppercut just past a minute into the first round was so iconic that it is still used in pop-culture references today. Frazier had no defense or answer for that canned ham sized right fist of Foreman’s. Foreman managed to knock Frazier down five times before the fight was stopped by the referee upon the sixth once Foreman cracked Frazier with another booming right that sent him crashing to the canvas.
At the ripe age of 24, George Foreman became the youngest world heavyweight championship, which helped propel him into the limelight of sustained superstardom. George Foreman was transcendent.
What do I mean by that?
He was one of the pioneers of personal branding in the contemporary market place, which helped him establish a presence outside of the ring. His friendly smile granted him media opportunities and other endorsements, but these all pale in comparison to one particular endeavor: The George Foreman Grill.
I still remember Foreman’s last fight as a kid against Shannon Briggs. It is crazy for me to realize that most of the youth today do not even know of Foreman as the boxer, they know him as “the grill guy”.
After nearly 25 years and 100 million units sold worldwide, everyone I know that routinely cooks and preps their own meals still has one of his grills (there are many different models now) in their kitchen. If that’s not a successful campaign, I do not know what is. It was such a big deal to me when “Pops” said he was going to be buying us a Foreman Grill, I hardly slept all night waiting to hop in the car and head to Sam’s Club.
Foreman retired after the Briggs fight with a 76-5 record as a professional.
Happy birthday, “Pops”. Rest in peace; I love you.
-Jordan Kurtz AKA Kurtzy F is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery.