As I have mentioned before, lists can be very difficult to put together. This is especially true when it comes to boxing lists. But I am always up for a challenge, so when the opportunity presented itself to compile a list of the top 5 knockouts by George Foreman, I jumped at it.
George Foreman is a worldwide icon. His boxing career was quite unique in that it was really two different careers that spanned multiple decades in the sport. He was once a polarizing figure who many disliked but later changed personas entirely, becoming a lovable fan favorite. His new persona helped open the door to many business ventures that help make Foreman a global celebrity.
There was one thing that was constant throughout the career of Foreman and that was his thunderous punching power. Of his 76 wins, 68 were by knockout and those knockouts spanned from 1969 to 1994. Many were memorable and some were historic in nature.
Narrowing this list of 68 potential contenders down to the top 5 is a difficult task. But here is my best attempt.
5. Gerry Cooney TKO 2 – 01/15/1990
Billed as “The Puncher vs. The Preacher” George Foreman took another step forward in his comeback when he demolished the popular Gerry Cooney in two rounds at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ at the start of 1990.
This fight with Cooney would be the 20th time George Foreman set foot in the ring in his comeback attempt. With a couple exceptions, most of the previous 19 foes were vastly overmatched. Cooney represented a step up in class for Foreman and a chance to legitimize the comeback. An impressive showing against Cooney could potentially set Foreman up for a super fight against then heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Cooney had been out of the ring for nearly two and half years. In his last outing he was stopped in the fifth round by lineal heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Though Cooney was considered to be past his prime he still possessed a vaunted left hook and was considered to have a legitimate punchers’ chance against Foreman.
After being in relative control of the first round showcasing a telephone pole like jab, Foreman was clipped toward the end of the round with a left hook from Cooney. Foreman was shaken but stood his ground and had fortune on his side with the punch having landed on him towards the end of the round.
Foreman stepped up the pressure in the second and consistently pushed Cooney back to the ropes. A little more than a minute into the round Foreman landed a vicious left uppercut that snapped Cooney’s head back and had him in trouble. A series of vicious follow up punches by Foreman landed clean on Cooney, which put him to the canvas.
Tough as nails Cooney would make it to his feet. George Foreman calmly walked across the ring and landed a fully leveraged left uppercut flush on Cooney’s jaw. A right hand followed but was not necessary, as Cooney was already in the process of falling face first to the canvas. Referee Joe Cortez did not even bother to count, awarding the TKO victory to Foreman.
Many thought the performance by George Foreman would set up a mega fight with Tyson. Unfortunately for boxing fans, such a fight never materialized. After four more wins Foreman would get a crack at heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in 1991, but fall short despite a very spirited effort. Click here, to watch the whole fight, from Top Rank.
4. Ken Norton TKO 2 – 03/26/1974
Foreman had already smashed thru Joe Frazier to take the heavyweight title in January of 1973 and demolished challenger Jose Roman in round one nine months later. Foreman’s reputation as a wrecking machine was at its peak when he was tasked to face top contender Ken Norton in Caracas, Venezuela in March of 1973.
Norton elevated his status in the heavyweight division in 1973 with a pair of battles with Muhammad Ali. In the first fight, Norton won a hard-fought twelve round split decision against the former champion in what was a massive upset. In the rematch, Norton would receive a tight twelve round split decision in a fight most observers thought could have gone either way. Despite the setback in the rematch Norton had firmly established himself in the division and earned his crack at the title.
Many thought that given his performances against Ali, that Norton could extend and test Foreman. But that was not the case.
The fight started with Foreman applying constant pressure to Norton and landing some vicious body shots in the first round on the challenger. Foreman stepped up the assault in the second and sent Norton sagging into ropes, eventually onto the seat of his pants with a volley of hard punches.
The end now seemed near. After an awkward moment where Norton stumbled back to the ropes, George Foreman unleashed five clean punches that landed with full ferocity, which sent the challenger slumping to the canvas. As Norton struggled to make it to his feet, his corner intervened to call a halt to the fight.
This was no doubt a peak Foreman and he seemed to be invincible at this point in his career. Of course things would shortly change but for at least this moment Foreman appeared unbeatable. Click here to watch the tape, see for yourself.
3. Ron Lyle KO 5 – 01/24/1976
There can be no George Foreman list without at least mention of his fight with Ron Lyle. To some, it is hands down the greatest heavyweight fight of all time. And many would go as far as saying that this is quite possibly the greatest fight of all time.
Foreman entered the ring with Lyle coming off a 15 month layoff following his knockout loss to Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire. Foreman not only lost his heavyweight title to Ali that night but also his aura of invincibility. Also, his pride was challenged as some in the sport questioned how he was unable to beat the count when he has put on the canvas by Ali in round eight.
Lyle was a rugged veteran who was coming off a win four months earlier against the power punching Earnie Shavers. Prior to that, Lyle gave Ali a tougher than expected challenge before succumbing in the eleventh round. Still well in contention in the heavyweight division, Lyle saw Foreman as an opportunity to expedite his charge toward another shot at the title.
Given the aggressive styles of Foreman and Lyle, this fight seemed like it could turn into shoot out. And boy did it ever. You can watch a replay of how the fight was presented to people watching on ABC, below:
George Foreman was hurt late in the first round by a right hand from Lyle and ate several clean punches before the bell sounded. But Foreman bounced back in round two to hurt Lyle with a left hand and started to pour on the pressure. However, as Foreman was seemingly in total control and landing bombs, the bell sounded one minute early, potentially saving Lyle.
After some back and forth in round three, the fourth started with a bang. Lyle put Foreman down early and then went for the finish. But Foreman, still hurt, rallied his way back and eventually put Lyle down. With the two then slugging it out, it seemed Foreman was getting the better of the action until Lyle landed a right hand that put Foreman face first on the canvas. But he beat the count and the bell soon rang to end one of the best rounds in the history of the sport.
Foreman was clearly still hurt when the fifth began and almost put to the canvas early in the round. Lyle, though, began to shows sign of fatigue, after landing punch after punch on Foreman. Eventually Foreman hurt Lyle with a counter left and Lyle went back to the ropes. There Foreman unloaded about 20 unanswered punches that would eventually send Lyle face first to the canvas. And this time the referee would count Lyle out.
What an incredible fight and George Foreman put to rest any of the criticism he received from his effort in Kinshasa. Click here, for a RING story by Tom Gray on Foreman-Lyle.
2. Joe Frazier TKO 2 – 01/22/1973
I guess this can be called the signature knockout win of Foreman’s first career. Arguably, also this was probably the best performance in the career of George Foreman.
Foreman had of course won Olympic Gold as a heavyweight in 1968. In the 3 ½ years leading to his fight Foreman had blitzed thru most of his competition, compiling a perfect record of 37-0.
But the quality of competition that Foreman faced in his early pro career seemed questionable. What were his best wins? Well, being the second to stop perennial gatekeeper George Chuvalo was a nice feather in Foreman’s cap. And two wins against Gregorio Peralta looked okay on paper. But for the most part, Foreman was looking good smashing much inferior competition.
Many in boxing thought the first time Foreman faced any resistance against a quality heavyweight would be problematic for the former Olympic Gold medalist. Experts thought his aggressive forward charging power punching style would inevitably get exposed and if he didn’t get clipped early his gas tank could not endure a tough fight. (Click here, and read what George Foreman thought about Frazier going into their first clash.)
It just so happened Foreman went from the kiddie pool to the deep end of the ocean in facing reigning heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. Frazier also sat with an undefeated record, but owned wins against much better opposition that included the likes of Muhammad Ali. The betting markets sided strongly with Frazier, installing him as a nearly 4-1 favorite to expose Foreman.
But it was all Foreman from the beginning. He hurt Frazier with essentially anything he landed and scored three knockdowns in the first round of the fight. In the second, Foreman continued to batter Frazier, knocking him down three more times. Finally after the sixth knockdown of the fight referee Arthur Mercante waived the bout off.
The shock of this moment was not only that Foreman won but just how easily he beat down Frazier. The power was scary and the thought in boxing was that Foreman may just be heavyweight champion for a very long time.
1. Michael Moorer KO 10 – 11/05/1994
This list is headlined by what ended up being the 68th and final knockout win in the career of George Foreman.
Michael Moorer entered this fight with Foreman fresh off an upset win against Evander Holyfield that previous April in which Moorer took Holyfield’s two heavyweight title belts. And probably more important than the belts was that Moorer also now became the lineal heavyweight champion.
Despite the win Moorer did not get all the accolades that usually come with dethroning the reigning heavyweight champion. Many thought his performance lacked “sizzle.” They argued he could have done much more inside the ring against a champion who clearly did not have it that night. And some, including HBO’s unofficial scorer Harold Lederman, thought Moorer did not deserve to win the fight.
Also, despite the win and despite the fact his record now sat at a glossy record of 35-0, Moorer was not a known commodity outside of the boxing community.
The heavyweight champion usually had crossover appeal to all sports fans but Moorer had not achieved this status. To do so he’d need a win against an even bigger name than Holyfield and, well, the biggest name outside of a still imprisoned Mike Tyson that was available was George Foreman.
Foreman had already accomplished more than anyone ever dreamed when he returned to the ring after a 10 year layoff in 1987.
Now 45, George Foreman had been out of the ring since June of 1993 when he was thoroughly out-boxed by Tommy Morrison in losing a 12 rounder by a wide margin.
The fairy tale comeback of Foreman seemed to be dwindling to an end but he was offered the chance to write one more chapter when he received the call to fight the new heavyweight champion.
Fairy tale stories have a way of capturing public imagination and despite the fact that few in the sport believed Foreman could realistically challenge for the heavyweight title, he entered the ring as just a 3-1 underdog.
Even Foreman’s harshest critics had to admit as well that while he certainly couldn’t probably beat Moorer in a boxing match, there was the off chance that Foreman could land just the right punch to alter heavyweight boxing history.
Anyone who watched the fight could see Foreman’s strategy from the opening bell. He knew at age 45 he couldn’t match the output or athleticism of Moorer. Instead Foreman knew his one and only chance was to land something of significance that would end the fight.
For nine rounds Moorer found Foreman an easy target to hit and piled up the points. Seemingly well ahead on the cards, his trainer, Teddy Atlas, reminded Moorer between rounds 9 and 10 that Foreman was just looking to set something up big. And not to stand in front of him but keep a busy pace moving side to side.
But in round ten as Moorer continued to find Foreman an easy target to hit he stood more and more in the pocket. And then, to steal the quote from Jim Lampley, it happened.
Foreman landed a picture perfect straight right hand down the pipe that flattened Moorer. At age 45, George Foreman capped his improbable comeback by winning back the heavyweight championship, becoming in the process the oldest man ever to do so.