Of course, no hard-and-fast, empirical evidence exists for comparing the punching power of George Foreman with, say, Mike Tyson, or any other heavyweight champion in history. However, former undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, who fought both men, including a 42-year-old, 275lb Foreman in the so-called ‘Battle of the Ages’ in 1991, called ‘Big George’ the hardest puncher he ever faced.
Famously an ‘arm’ puncher, who threw punches from the shoulder without putting his body weight behind them, Foreman was, nonetheless, blessed with immense physical strength and fearless constitution, which more than compensated for what he lacked in speed, stamina and technical prowess. Indeed, in his early years, Foreman was probably the most intimidating puncher in the history of boxing.
Foreman first won the world heavyweight title against ‘Smokin’’ Joe Frazier in the so-called ‘Sunshine Showdown’ in Jamaica in 1973. In a devastating performance, Foreman punched Frazier from pillar-to-post, knocking the hitherto undefeated, undisputed champion down six times before winning by technical knockout after 1 minute 35 seconds of the second round. Foreman retired for the first time in 1977, but returned to the ring a decade later at the age of 38; seven years later, he became the oldest heavyweight champion in his history when, at the age of 45, he knocked out another hitherto undefeated champion, Michael Moorer, in the tenth round of the so-called ‘One for the Ages’ in Nevada with a clean, short right hand.
The undisputed heavyweight champion is, of course, a boxer who is recognised as world champion, in the heavyweight division, by each of the sanctioning bodies in professional boxing. Prior to the foundation of the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) in 1920, and the National Boxing Association (NBA) in 1921, the world heavyweight championship was a lineal championship, which could only be won by defeating the existing title holder.
In the early Twenties, the lineal heavyweight champion was William Harrison ‘Jack’ Dempsey, otherwise known as ‘The Manassa Mauler’, and he became inaugural NBA champion on July 2, 1921 and inaugural NYSAC champion on July 24, 1922. Of course, this was long before the foundation of the World Boxing Council (WBC) in 1963, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) in 1983 and the World Boxing Organisation (1988) but, having held the NBA and NYSAC titles simultaneously between July 24, 1922 and September 23, 1926, Jack Dempsey was effectively the first undisputed heavyweight champion in history.
His reign came to an end at the hands of the hitherto unheralded Gene Tunney, who won the NBA title, by unanimous decision, at Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia. Tunney also won the rematch – later christened ‘The Long Count Fight’ – at Soldiers Field, Chicago, a year later in similar fashion.
The so-called ‘Drake Curse’ is a series of unfortunate, but hardly supernatural, coincidences that are associated with the Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, otherwise known by the mononym ‘Drake’. Since he rose to prominence as a recording artist in 2009, Drake has posed for photographs with, and/or endorsed, some of the top athletes in the world and, more often than not, they have subsequently suffered misfortune of one form or another.
Of course, Drake isn’t really ‘cursed’ or ‘jinxed’ but, for anyone remotely superstitious, his uncanny ability to put the mockers on heavily favoured, elite sportsmen and women is definitely cause for concern. In April, 2019 alone, Drake was pictured alongside footballers including Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang of Arsenal and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, who all suffered major reversals of fortune almost as soon as the pictures were uploaded to social media.
The latest high-profile ‘victim’ of the Drake Curse was former unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who posted a photograph of himself and the Toronto rapper on Instagram shortly before his shock defeat by virtually unknown Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2019. In what Joshua billed as the ‘bout to beat the curse’, Ruiz Jr., who weighed in at a seemingly overweight 268 pounds and could be backed at 25/1 beforehand, won by technical knockout in the seventh round, creating the biggest heavyweight boxing upset since James ‘Buster’ Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in Tokyo in 1990.
The ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, so-christened by boxing promoter Don King, was a legendary heavyweight championship fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of the Congo – on October 30, 1974. Foreman, 25, was the undefeated world heavyweight champion, with a pre-fight record of 40 wins, 37 by knockout. By contrast, Ali, 32, first became world heavyweight champion in 1964 but, having been stripped of the title in 1967, surrendered his own unbeaten record, by unanimous decision, to Joe Frazier in the so-called ‘Fight of the Century’ at Madison Square Garden in 1971. Few observers believed Ali could regain the title from his significantly younger opponent.
However, Ali had other ideas and adopted the now infamous ‘rope-a-dope’ tactic in an effort to weaken the punching power of his opponent. Round after round, Ali adopted an uncharacteristically defensive stance against the ropes, allowing Foreman to pummel his arms and body with hundreds of powerful blows, while taunting him to throw wilder and wilder punches. By the eighth round, Foreman had punched himself virtually to a standstill and, seizing the opportunity, Ali produced his own flurry of left and right hooks, sending his opponent head-first towards the canvas. Foreman was still struggling to rise when he was counted out. Ali had won and, in so doing, become only the second boxer in history to regain the world heavyweight title.