Was Cocky . . . But Damn, I was Good!”
The Bob Foster Story
only is Bob Foster the greatest fighter to ever come out of New Mexico,
but this Hall of Famer is considered by many to be the greatest light
heavyweight in the history of sport.
a career that spanned 65 fights and 17 years, Bob Foster punched his way
to the light heavyweight championship, then defended his undisputed
title a record number of times for his class—14 times—between ’69
and ’73. Whereas most world champions nowadays balk at giving up 4 or
5 pounds, let alone 40, Foster was a risk-taker, taking the leap into
the heavyweight division to fight the era’s giants: guys like Joe
Frazier and Muhammad Ali. The only losses on his record are to
heavyweights. As a light heavy, Foster was untouchable.
retired undefeated in 1974, then returned to the ring for seven fights
before he called it quits for good in ’78. His record was 56-8-1, with
took up a career in law enforcement after he was finished with boxing.
Now 63 years old, Foster continues to work and live in Albuquerque, his
hometown . . . .
that skinny little S.O.B. learn to punch . . . ?"
Bob Foster was in high school, he got into a fight and with a single
punch, and fractured the other kid’s skull. It got him kicked out of
had to go before the judge,” says Foster. “I was scared to death! My
mother told me, ‘Quit hittin’ those guys and push them or slap them
instead.’ I said, ‘Why? They ain’t slapping me! They’re
trying to hurt me, why shouldn’t I hit them?’”
Fighting was a means of defense for Bob
Foster, who grew up in the Chicano-dominated South Valley of
Albuquerque. He says he fought often—and early on, he was “laying
“But I never thought about no
punching power. I’d just get in there and throw punches . . .”
wasn’t until Foster was in the Air Force that his value as a fighter
was realized. After enlisting in the military after high school in
’57, Foster made the Air Force’s boxing team. For the next four
years, that’s all he would do—box. And in over 100 fights, Foster
would win all but three.
“That’s all we did in the military
was box. We traveled all over the world. We went to England and cleaned
up. Fought in Downtown, DC in the National Golden Gloves; cleaned up
there, too. After we passed through, they wouldn’t let us in the
Gloves no more. I fought this guy named Jimmy Bush—one bad dude. But I
hit him with a right uppercut and bam! It looked like he was doing a
dance, his legs moving all over the place before he finally fell over. I
always could punch—one time I hit a big Marine and with one shot,
broke both his jawbones. I remember those days good . . . We were some baaddd
amateurs in the Air Force. A damn good team.”
Foster would win the light heavyweight
division in the Pan American Games. It was while fighting in the Pan
American Games that Foster first came across Muhammad Ali, then Cassius
“We were in the auditorium in
Chicago. Ali was sitting behind me but I didn’t know it. I heard this
loudmouth talking loud and turned to my friend, ‘Who’s that guy back
there?’ I asked. He said, ‘That’s Cassius Clay.’ I said, ‘Who
the hell is Cassius Clay?’ ‘Well, he’s supposed to be a pretty
good fighter.’ And he was a good fighter. That guy would hit you,
boom-boom-boom-boom-boom! And then he was gone . . .”
It would be Clay, not Foster, who’d
get the light heavy spot for the Olympics.
“They wanted to drop me down to
middleweight,” recalls Foster. “I said, ‘How the hell am I gonna
make middleweight?’ I was 6’3”—how was I gonna get to 160? I
couldn’t make it and they took Ali as a light heavy. What they
should’ve done is take Ali as a heavyweight. They screwed the whole
thing up. They took a friend of mine, Eddie Crook for middleweight and
for heavyweight, they took a guy named Lennie More from the Air Force.
Hell, I used to spank his butt every day we sparred. He was a big, dumb
heavyweight, big and slow.”
Ali went on to win the gold medal in
Foster stayed on for another year,
still in big demand by the military. He continued to train and box in
D.C. where he was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base.
“They used to bring all the pros down
to the base to box with us. One day, my trainers said, ‘Bob, you’re
gonna box with Clarence Hinnant.’ I said, ‘Box with who?’
“Man, I was cocky back then, being
the Air Force’s light heavyweight champion, and the Pan American champ
and all that.
“While I was putting on my shoes, I
asked this guy, ‘Hey Mack, who’s this Clarence Hinnant guy?’ He
said Hinnant was the #2 light heavyweight contender.
“‘You mean he’s a pro? Oh Lordy
. . .’
“I got in there and Hinnant spanked
my butt. I was scared to death. Actually, I was a little nervous, not
really scared, working with a professional. I didn’t know what to do.
Every time I did something, this guy had something to deal with it.
I’d throw a punch and he’d sit there and whap!whap!whap!, do
“Well, my trainer jumped all over me.
He said, ‘Tomorrow, you’re gonna box with him again. He
ain’t no different than you. He puts on his pants the same way you do.
He’s got two hands just like you got two hands. Hell, you a
professional too, you just ain’t signed no papers.’
“Next day we go out there, we started
to box. I noticed something when he jabbed, his hands dropped low, so I
stepped in there and boom! One shot, put him down.
“Hinnant had been getting ready to
fight Yvonne Durelle and if he’d beaten Durelle, he’d get a shot at
Archie Moore for the title. But I hit him with that right hand and his
left leg went up in the air, his eyes went up in his head and he went
down. His trainers jumped in the ring, ‘Hey Clarence, you alright?
Clarence, you alright?
‘Yeah, huh? Yeah . . . I’m alright
. . . uh-huh . . .’ Hell, he didn’t know where he was! His trainer
looked at me, looked at my trainer, Freddy, and said, ‘Who the hell is
that skinny kid?’
‘That’s Bob Foster,’ my trainer
‘Well, where’d he learn to punch
“I’d hit him with that one shit
wearing 18 ounce gloves, too. Great big gloves like pillows and I’d
knocked him cold.”
Foster was nearing the end of his four
years of service around that time.
“When I got close to getting
discharged, every branch of the military wanted me; the Marines, the Air
Force, the Navy, the Army . . . the Army, though, gave me a better deal.
They guaranteed I’d be a master sergeant within 90 days of discharge
and they’d move my family and I down to Fort Cameron, KY. I said,
‘That sounds pretty good.’ So, I got discharged from the Air Force
and drove down to Kentucky where I stayed on their base on their boxing
team. But I only stayed two months. I figured if I’m this damn good
where every damn branch of the service wants me, I think I’ll just get
out and turn professional. So, that’s what I did.”
It was a good thing that Foster got out
when he did:
“Right after I got out, that damn
Vietnam war broke out and they sent the whole boxing team from Fort
Cameron, KY. They sent all those guys over there and every one of them
got killed. Every damn one of ‘em. Man, that hurt . . . .”
“I couldn’t fight with three
jabs coming at me. I didn’t know which one to duck . . . .”
Foster turned pro in March of ’61 and by the end of the year, he was
7-0 with 4 KO’s. His winning streak would continue to 9-0 (5 KO’s)
before he would lose his first fight in October of ’62—against
heavyweight Doug Jones. In a 10-rounder, Foster was KO’d in the 8th.
and I were in the Air Force together, and I spanked his butt back then.
He was a light heavyweight then. He got out a couple years before I did
and grew into a heavyweight. Well, Jones was supposed to fight fellow
heavyweight contender Zora Folley but something had happened and they
were looking for someone to fight him. I said, ‘Hell, I’ll fight
him. Being a heavyweight, he outweighed me but I didn’t care. Well, he
stopped me in the 8th. I just ran out of gas. I didn’t
train, and I wasn’t a 10-round fighter, I was just a six-round
months later, Foster was knocking out guys again. He fought twice in the
D.C. area where he was living, scoring KO’s in the 1st and
4th, before he was matched up against another fight. This
time, he was scheduled to fight Mauro Mina in Mina’s hometown of Lima,
Peru, in November, ’63.
was a light-heavyweight and my record says I lost a ten-round decision. Hell,
I lost that fight! I didn’t lose that! In fact, I retired Mina!
They sent me down there to be used as a tune-up fight because Mina was
getting ready to fight Dick Tiger, who was champ at the time . . . . but
by the time I got through with Mina, there was nothing left.
was a messed up fight. One round, we’d fight two minutes, the next we
might fight five or four minutes. I’d go back to my corner and ask my
trainer, Billy*, what was going on. [*Foster’s trainer was Billy
Edwards. Edwards had been a light heavyweight contender before he
retired. (Edwards passed away in 1996.) I’d say, ‘Damn, that was a
I couldn’t knock that guy out. Every time I hurt Mina, I’d hear BING!
They’d ring the bell to end the round. But if he was getting the best
of me, damn, we’d fight for five minutes! I messed him up good
though, and he couldn’t fight no more.”
Three more early-round knockouts
followed the “loss” to Mina—until Foster was matched up against
one of the best heavyweights of the time, Ernie Terrell. (Terrell would
win the WBA Heavyweight title in ’65 when Ali was stripped for
fighting a rematch with Sonny Liston rather than against their #1, but
Terrell would lose it two years later to Ali.)
Terrell was simply too big and strong for Foster, outweighing the light
heavyweight 202 ½ to 183. Foster came in as a 2-1 underdog.
controlled the action but was warned and even penalized for holding so
by the 6th, the fight was even. But Foster was beginning to
tire from the clinching. He took the 6th with the harder
punches on the inside but in the 7th, Terrell landed an
overhand and a hook and in a delayed reaction, Foster fell. He was up at
six, but when he staggered, referee Arthur Mercante continued counting
‘til ten. Later, Mercante would say that as Foster was struggling to
regain his feet, he’d pushed off the canvas with his glove, which
meant technically that Foster hadn’t risen from the floor.
Whatever the reason, Foster was angry
at the outcome, but for a different reason. He told reporters:
“Terrell knocked me down with a push and a shove. He hugged me more
than my wife.”
more knockout wins rounded out 1964 for Foster. He was now 17-3, with 3
KO’s when, in January of ’65, he fought for the first time in his
was nothing going on in New Mexico so it was hard to draw a crowd back
then,” says Foster, who gave his hometown a round and a half before
knocking out Roberto Rascon in the 2nd. The next time Foster
fought in Albuquerque, it would be as the light heavyweight champion.
more knockout wins and Foster was rematching crafty contender Henry Hank
first time, Foster had stopped him in the 10th. This time,
the fight would go the distance although Foster won a lopsided decision.
Foster closed Hank’s eye in the 1st, also bloodying his
mouth and nose. Hank took the damage and somehow lasted the distance.
the fight, Hank told reporters, “I couldn’t fight with three jabs
coming at me. I didn’t know which one to duck.”
next fight would be his toughest yet: against heavyweight contender Zora
Folley. It would be his last fight for a year.
learned how to fight, fighting Zora Folley,” says Foster. “The guy
was a tremendous fighter. He wasn’t a big heavyweight—about
190—but when you’re only 175, that’s a lot of weight to give up.
Folley taught me what it was to fight. That sucker could box. He
couldn’t break an egg but he could box. And that jab . . . that jab
worried me to death.”
ten rounds, Folley took the decision.
Despite the loss, Foster was now a
threat to the Light Heavyweight champion Dick Tiger, who won the title
from Jose Torres. (Tiger had also been the World Middleweight champion
in ’63 and then again in ’65-’66.)
getting a shot at Tiger wasn’t all that easy.
wanted to fight me. In those days, you wanted a shot at the title, you
had to come up with some big money and guarantee the champion a purse.
They wanted $100,000, and I didn’t have it at the time.”
a year lay-off, Foster came back in December of ’66 and started
knocking out guys again. In one year, fighting in the D.C. area where he
was living and training, Foster scored 7 knockouts and one decision
(against Eddie Vick.)
after seven years of fighting, Foster got himself a shot at the title.
“Dick Tiger? Man, that was Ice
Cream and Cake . . . .”
securing financial backers, Foster guaranteed the champion’s purse of
$100,000. Foster made a fraction of that—$10,000 if even that—but it
was the title he wanted; the title he was positive he could win.
was no walkover; he was 57-17-3 and had beaten guys like Joey Giardello,
Gene Fullmer and Jose Torres. Despite Tiger’s experience, Foster was a
12 to 5 favorite. He had a 7 ½-inch height advantage and an 8-inch
reach advantage. Foster’s record was now 29-4, with 26 KO’s.
“I never thought he’d fight me but
I knew if ever got the chance, I’d be champion. I’d told the
promoters at the Garden before the fight, ‘You might as well give him
the $100,000 now because there’s no way in hell he’s gonna beat
May of ’68 before 12,000 fans at Madison Square Garden, Foster
started off well, landing a good left hook early but Foster was patient.
He took control in the 2nd round, sticking jabs in the
champ’s face while eluding Tiger’s power shots.
would call the 4th the “Round of the Year”: Two minutes
into the round, Foster threw a right that missed and followed up with a
short hook that caught Tiger coming in. Tiger went down hard.
2:05, Tiger was counted out—for the first time in his 15-year career.
It had also been his second knockdown in 77 fights.
would describe his experience to Ring Magazine afterward: “I do
not see anything. I do not hear anything. Everything is all quiet, and
it is dark. There is no pain, there is no sound. I do not know I was on
the floor. Was I on the floor?”
right you were on the floor!” Foster would say.
Tiger, man that fight was ice cream and cake. The guy was too short—he
was 5’7” or 5’8” and I’m 6’3” and can knock this building
over. I knew Tiger could punch, though. I just knew I could punch
harder. But he was so damn short, it was hard getting anything to land.
the end of the 3rd round, my trainer said, ‘You can’t get
a good shot on him, can you?’ I said, ‘No, he’s covering up too
much.’ He said, ‘Well, when you’re getting ready to come in, hit
him with a right uppercut and then follow with the left hook.’ I said,
in the 4th, I bent way down low and hit him. I missed
the first shot. Then he came in again and WHAM! BAW! I caught him right
on the chin and he fell backward and hit headfirst. That’s how hard I
hit him. He tried his damndest to get up but there was no way in the world
he’d a made it. He was out of it. Shit, I must’ve jumped
higher than this house!”
Foster was now the light heavyweight champion of the world.
“Fighters today are babied. Back
in my day, we took risks and fought ‘em all.”
followed winning the title was a domination of the light heavyweight
division that hasn’t been seen since. By the time Bob Foster retired
(for the first time) in 1974, Foster would rack up 14 title defenses, as
well as take the leap into the heavyweight division to take on two of
the sports greatest heavyweights: Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
August of ’68, Foster returned to Albuquerque for a hometown fight and
his second title defense. His opponent was Eddie Vick, a man he’d gone
the distance with in ’67.
came back home and fought this big heavyweight, Eddie Vick, stopping him
in the 4th round. I remember that fight because that man
taught me a lesson in the first round. Everyone was there, my mother was
there and my sister was sitting ringside. So, I was acting cute and
showing off. I threw a jab and dropped my left hand and WHAMMO! He
caught me right there on the chin! Man, I hit the floor and they say my
legs were shaking.
“But I was in good shape. I got up
and beat the count. I didn’t know where I was but I made it to the end
of the round. ‘What happened?’ I asked my corner. They said,
‘Goddamnit, quit showing off out there in front of your family and
keeps your hands up! Get to work!’
went back out there and told Vick, ‘You won’t see that shit
no more!’ And I got behind my left hand and started busting him up. I
went to work on his body and everytime I hit him, I’d hear him groan.
Bam! Ughhh! Bam! Ugghhh! He wouldn’t come
back out for the 4th round.”
Foster says there’s a fight against
another heavyweight that’s missing from his record: a fight in San
Francisco that lasted but 17 seconds.
guy was big and tough and mean looking, he looked like the black Mr.
Clean. Before the fight started, I asked Billy, ‘Damn Billy, you sure
you know what we’re doing?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he big but he dumb. I
want you to go up to him, feint that jab to his stomach and get him on
the chin with a right hand.’
walked out there and feinted that jab, then BAM! Hit him right on the
chin and lifted him clear up his feet! I remember that punch clearly
because when I hit him, blood shot out of both his ears! He lay down
there shaking and his brother jumped into the ring shouting, ‘You done
killed my brother! He’s dead! You killed him, you killed him!’
said, ‘Well, that’s the price you pay. This is a tough business,
that’s what I get paid for.’ Well, I don’t get paid to kill
nobody but I get paid to hurt you—Hell, they’re trying to
guy asked my trainer, ‘Is he always that mean?’ Billy said, ‘Nah,
he’s got a heart of gold . . .’”
next fight was against Montana fighter Roger Rouse in DC; the first of
two fights against the hard-headed, hard-hitting Rouse.
was one tough man. That first fight, that sucker hit me on the chin with
a left hook—it felt like electricity started from there and went all
the way through my body. Man, the bottom of my feet were on fire.
I made it up and went I got back to my corner, I asked Billy, ‘What
the heck did he hit me with?’ Billy said, ‘He hit you with a left
hook, now keep your hands up!’
must’ve known I was still on fire, ‘cause he said, ‘You
alright?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He held up one hand and asked, ‘How
many fingers am I holding up?’ I said, ‘Six.’ Billy laughed and
said, ‘You alright. Now get back out there and keep your damn hands
up. Get behind that jab.’
I had a devastating jab! If I didn’t knock you out, I was gonna bust
you open, anyway. I told Rouse, ‘You won’t hit me with that
shit no more!’
Pow! I got behind my jab and busted him up good. Knocked him out in the
5th. The second time I fought Rouse, in 1970, it took me four
rounds. Bam! I hit him and cut both his eyes open. I had him down three
times in four round before the ringside doc said enough. He was one
tough man, Rouse . . .”
defended his title at the Garden in his next fight, against the only
other fighter to knock down Dick Tiger, Frankie De Paula. De Paula was a
brawler. Before the fight, he told the press that he’d start winging
punches from the opening bell: “Everybody, including Foster, knows
I’m no fancy dan,” he said.
seconds into the fight, Foster was down from a left hook to the body,
although the champ said it was a slip and not a true knockdown. Angry at
having it ruled a knockdown, Foster went to work and dropped De Paula
three times in the next two minutes, ending the fight on the 3-knockdown
rule with a KO win at 2:17.
next title defense was four months later in Springfield, MA, against the
#1 Contender, a guy named Andy Kendall.
had been shot point-blank in the stomach from a shotgun wielded by his
father-in-law. Physicians said he’d never fight again but he proved
them all wrong, returning to the ring and rising to #1 Contender.
knocked him out in the 4th and after the fight, Kendall said
he was considering retirement. Foster told him not to retire:
don’t ever be the #1 Contender again,” he said.
From the time he knocked out Tiger,
Foster was on a knockout streak: three KO’s in the second half of
’68 after winning the title; four KO’s in ’69; and four more
KO’s in ’70. There was no one around to threaten Foster’s light
heavyweight reign—except, of course, the sanctioning bodies who called
then, there were only two recognized bodies: the WBC and WBA. Foster
held both belts, making him the undisputed champ. But Foster hadn’t
defended his WBA belt in six months so now the WBA was demanding that
Foster take on their #1 man, Jimmy Dupree. Foster said Dupree—who was
his sparring partner, no less—presented little challenge. A fight with
Dupree was also not much of a payday.
wanted something else; he wanted to be the first light heavyweight
champion to win the World Heavyweight title.
wanted Joe Frazier.
“Frazier brought death to you . .
November of ’70, a 188-pound Bob Foster stepped into the ring with a
209-pound Joe Frazier at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, MI. Foster was a 5-1
underdog against the undefeated Heavyweight Champion, who was 26-0 at
the 1st, Foster bombarded Frazier with hooks and straight
rights. In the second, Frazier took over—one hook toppled Foster for
the nine-count. A second hook dropped him again where he was counted out
“My toughest fight was Smokin’ Joe
Frazier. It only lasted two round, but those two rounds seemed like a
year with that sucker comin’ at you. He was the closest you
could come to facing death. Why’d I take it? Shit, the money!
“But I thought I had him out in the
first round. I hit him with a right that buckled his knees. I guess
maybe he was playing with me or something, because after that first
round, his manager grabbed him and slapped him and said, ‘Goddamnit!’—he
was yelling and you could hear him clear across the ring, probably all
over the auditorium—he said, ‘Goddamnit, what the hell did I tell
you? Didn’t I tell you that you can’t give that little skinny SOB
any punching room? He’ll knock your brains out! Now, get on top of
that’s what he did in that second round. I was telling Billy, ‘I’m
gonna knock this dumb heavyweight out. He’s sitting there trying to
box with me.’ Billy said, ‘Whatever you do, Bobby, don’t pull back
on this guy.’ I said, ‘Okay.’
Joe got me on the ropes. I knew it was a body punch. He threw three
shots to the body and I blocked ‘em—but the fourth one he feinted
and I went for it. He turned it over right on the chin—I don’t
remember nothing after that. It was the first time I’d ever
been out . . .
me and Joe were tight, before and after the fight. That’s why
he gave me a shot, because we were friends, you know. Afterwards, I
said, ‘Damn Joe, you tried to kill me in there!’ He said,
‘No, I didn’t try to kill you, but I couldn’t just let you come in
and take my title.’ I said, ‘Well, I was gonna do more than just
show up, Joe.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know you was. That’s why I had to
stop you in the second round.’ Joe and I, we went out to a bar and got
drunk that night, yeah . . .”
“I was mean and I wanted to hurt
you . . .”
to the Heavyweight Champion did nothing to Foster’s confidence. He was
back in the ring defending his Light Heavyweight title four months later
against Hal “TNT” Carroll in Scranton, PA.
never did lose to a light heavyweight, and man, was I cocky! I remember
fighting this kid, Hal Carroll.
the weigh-in, he was standing there on the scale, I was behind him. One
of the newspaper reporters asked him, ‘How many times have you been
knocked out?’ He said, ‘Knocked out? I ain’t ever been
knocked out. I’ve never been down.’
was behind him so I touched him on the shoulder. He turned around and
looked. I said, ‘You will be tonight.’
already put the fear of God into him. They knew I could punch. With
either hand. After the third round, I told my corner, ‘I’m gonna end
him this round. Hit him with a right hand. I’m gonna feint this left
hand to the stomach and he’s gonna go for it. He’ll bring that hand
down and leave his face open.’
the bell rang, I hit him with a right hand, about six inches. I turned
it over, and POW! Honest to God, he got stiff as a board—and had this
big ol’ smile on his face! I thought, ‘Now what the Hell . .
?’ Then he went Boom! Face first, he hit the canvas. I started
had been warned not to take that fight. ‘You gonna fight who?’,
people had asked him. ‘Bob Foster? You don’t need to fight no
Bob Foster! He’s gonna ruin you!’
“’Oh no, oh no . . .’ Carroll had
been saying. And that one shot ruined him. He wasn’t any good after
that. Nope, I never did have any problems with those light
fought five times in ‘71—four KO’s and a 15-round decision in a
title defense against Ray Anderson. Only now, Foster, although still
considered the “World Light Heavyweight Champion” had only one
belt—the WBC’s. The WBA had stripped Foster of his belt when he
opted to fight Joe Frazier in November of ’70. The WBA belt had been
vacated and then won by Vincente Rondon.
April of ’72, Foster got the chance to unify the belts again.
the fight, Foster told the press, “I didn’t really want to knock him
out. I wanted it to go 15 so I could beat him bad. I hate him and I hate
fight did not go past the 2nd:
“I didn’t like the guy. He kept
talking, ‘Me the champion, me the champion . . .’ I said, ‘Yeah,
you’re the champion, my ass. Champion of my sit-down
parts! I’m the champion and I’m gonna show you in the ring.
“The first round was slow but in the
2nd, I hit him with a double
left hook that knocked him out cold. I fractured his skull in two
places. His feet were twitching and they carted him out on a stretcher.
I was mean, I wanted to hurt you, I really wanted to hurt you . . .”
is what Foster did in his next fight, against Mike Quarry in Nevada,
knocking him out in the 4th. Quarry was undefeated at 35-0
and rated #1 in the world; after the fight, Quarry would say that the
loss to Foster broke his will as a fighter.
I hit Mike Quarry, I thought he was dead. I was bending over looking at
him and all the sudden the pupils rolled back in his head. I said, ‘Oh
my God . . .’ My trainer had me by the arm and he was saying,
‘C’mon Bobby, Don’t look at him.’ I said, “Billy, the kid is
dead . . .’ ’Eff him then, he ain’t got no business being in
here’—that’s how cold my trainer was. He was mean.”
Foster and Quarry were matched up again
in a supposed-to-be friendly boxing exhibition several years ago in Los
matched up all us old-timers and that sucker Quarry tried to take my head
off! He couldn’t hit me with nuthin’ but when I got tagged, my
reflexes almost took over. Carmen Basilio’s wife stood up and yelled
at Quarry, ‘You S.O.B.! This is supposed to be an exhibition!
Bobby, don’t kill him!’ I was getting ready, too, but they stopped
it just in time. I was getting ready to cut loose with that left hook.
would always ask me, every time he sees me, he’ll say, ‘How’d you
hit me with that punch?’ I’ll say, ‘Mack, I told you over and over
again. When I throw a jab at you, you slipped it and always dropped your
hand. I threw a right hand over your shoulder because I knew what you
were gonna do. When you came back up, you walked right into this
went to England for his next fight, against the ’68 Olympic gold
medallist, Chris Finnegan. Foster scored a 10th round
knockdown and then finished Finnegan with a hook that put him down for
the count in the 14th.
champ was ready to take the leap into the heavyweight division again in
an attempt to be the first light heavyweight champ to win a heavyweight
title. The title had switched hands, though—Joe Frazier had lost his
title to George Foreman, who Muhammad Ali would beat two years later.
This fight was for Ali’s NABF heavyweight title.
“Ali? Couldn’t bust a grape . .
knocked me out. Ali? He TKO’d me—not with punches because the man
couldn’t bust a grape. He had me down so many times because of his
weight. Only reason I didn’t back up was because my trainer was
yelling at me to stay down. I had to defend my title in two months.”
was down seven times in the 8 rounds the fight lasted.
never did hurt me. But I rocked his ass. I was drilling him . . . But I
still got to give it to the guy. The guy was a hell of a fighter, man.
Unlike the guys today, Ali gave all the heavyweights a chance to make
some money. He didn’t duck anyone. So I got to give the guy credit for
that. Him and I, we’re still friends, we were friends when we fought,
we were friends clear through the amateurs.
what Ali said after the fight:
got cut and bruises alongside my left eye and that’s something that no
other professional fighter has been able to do to me. Foster gave me
trouble all through the fight. I didn’t know a man could land so many
“I just wasn’t right anymore . .
saw Foster fighting but two fights, both against the same guy, Pierre
Fourie. The first was in August, in Albuquerque; the second was in
Fourie’s hometown in South Africa. Both fights went the
distance—decisions for Foster.
was ice cream. He’s a little old short dude and I just him with my
jab, boxed him. He moved a lot. I told myself, I’m not goin’
nowhere. I got 15 rounds to play with him. Fourie was moving and jumping
and I just took my time and hit him when I wanted. I was ready to go out
anyway, ready to give it up at the time.”
wasn’t that Foster was losing his skills or his interest in boxing. It
was his mother. She was ill in ’73. Then, in December, she passed
wanted to take her with me, to Johannesburg, but she wouldn’t fly. I
couldn’t get her on a plane if I knocked her out and put her on there.
If she woke up while in the air, she’d probably jump right off. But I
just wasn’t myself in Johannesburg. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was
but there was something wrong with me.
mother knew she was gonna pass but she wouldn’t tell me. She just said
she wouldn’t be able to make it this time. She wouldn’t tell me what
was wrong; she wanted my mind to stay on the fight. But I knew something
was wrong. You know how you just know sometimes?”
fought on the 1st and returned on the 3rd—the
day his mother died.
“Well, I was mad at the world then.
If you ever lose your mother, that’s something that you’ll never
forget. It’ll be with you ‘til the day you die.”
fought one more time and then retired. In June ’74, before a sold-out
crowd at the UNM Arena in Albuquerque, Foster took out light heavyweight
contender from Argentnia, Jorge Ahumada.
15 rounds, Foster fought sluggish, while Ahumada connected with hooks
and downed the champ in the 13th round. At the end, though,
the judges gave the decision to Foster: 148-143, 145-142 and 144-144.
thought I’d lost that fight. Ahumada was a little ol’ bitty short
dude but he was all over me. He couldn’t bust a grape but I still
thought I’d lost that fight. They called it a draw. Anytime you get a
draw in your hometown, that means you lost the fight. Yeah, I would’ve
come back and knocked him out—I should’ve knocked him out
back then—but I just wasn’t right anymore.”
September that year, Foster announced his retirement.
“It was my mother. Everywhere I
fought, I’d always send for her. She’d always be sitting ringside at
my fights. It wasn’t the same anymore. I’d look around and not see
her there. My trainer said, ‘Bobby, we had enough of this shit. We
made enough money. Let’s quit.’”
that’s what Foster did . . . for a while, anyway.
Albuquerque, Foster started up a career in law enforcement with the
Sheriff’s Department. But in June of ’75, he began a half-hearted
comeback. The former champ fought once in ’75, three times in ’76
and once in ‘77—four out of five knockouts, all wins. He fought two
more times in ‘78—both KO losses.
wasn’t in no shape then. It was time to give it up.”
retired again and this time, stayed retired.
“I wish I could do it again . .
1990, Bob Foster was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame
in the first year of inductees, alongside some of the greats he fought:
Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Dick Tiger.
got no regrets with my career. Hell, I fought from 1960 to 1978 and I
had the title for six, seven years. I accomplished everything I had to
do in boxing and retired with my title. Hell, I wish I could do it
again. But you get that age on you and you have to cut boxing loose.”
today, Foster is considered one of—if not the best—light
heavyweight of all time. Also in the running: Archie Moore and Roy
is a good, smart fighter—more of a defensive fighter, really—but he
wouldn’t have beaten me. He wouldn’t have gotten past my jab let
alone my power. I would’ve been too strong for him, too big. Fighting
Jones would’ve been like my fight with Tiger. Jones isn’t mean
enough, like I was.
don’t find any mean fighters nowadays. Tyson? He’s not mean, he’s
crazy. But no one’s hungry. They’re all babied.”
being mean or hungry enough is just one of the problems Foster sees
plaguing boxing these days.
my days, if you were to ask, ‘Who’s the light heavyweight
champion?’, you’d hear, ‘Bob Foster is.’ If you were to ask,
“Who’s the heavyweight champion?’, you’d hear, ‘Muhammad
Ali.’ ‘Who’s the middleweight champion?’ ‘Emile Griffith.’
Nowadays, you ask, you have no idea. Someone asked me recently who the
heavyweight champ is. I had no idea.
“They got so many of them out there.
I guess because the money is so big now. Everyone wants their champions.
I call them ‘paper champions.’ Only two titles I go along with is
the WBA and WBC. And that’s it. The rest of them, the IBA, the IBF the
WBO . . . you can forget ‘em.
“It don’t make sense to me. Get
boxing back to what it was. Let there be one champion. Let that one
champion fight the #1 Contender. That’s the way it used to be. Now,
they got too many versions of the champion. Too many champions in each
division. When I was boxing, there were just nine divisions. It’s all
messed up now, and something needs to be done about it.”
No respect in New Mexico
Bob Foster may be the most successful
boxer to come out of New Mexico, but most fight fans here are not so
familiar with him—not as familiar as they are with Johnny Tapia and
Danny Romero, anyway.
“Back east, they make you feel like
you’re the champion. Everyone knows Bob Foster out there. But here in
New Mexico . . . half the people don’t even know I live here, or that
I was born and raised here.”
Part of the reason may be the success
in the last ten years of former world champions Johnny Tapia and Danny
Romero—two fighters Bob Foster does not care too much for.
“Tapia and Romero? Those guys ain’t
nothing like we were back then. They will never be the fighter I
was. Hell, I fought anyone. Those two have too many problems. And they
didn’t want to fight guy from D.C., Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. You
want to be the champ, you should fight the best in your class. That
means anyone and everyone.
“And Romero? Shit, everybody he
fought they dug up out of Strong & Thorne Mortuary! Those Romeros
try to run around bullshitting people. This is a boxing business and you
got to be ready—them guys are trying to take your head off in the
ring. Romero, he should’ve quit when he fought Salazar and injured
that eye bone. He’s been protective ever since—hell, he doesn’t
even spar! You don’t spar, how the hell you gonna be ready for a
fight? You can’t get sharp without sparring. I had 150-200 rounds of
boxing when I fought for the belt, before I stepped in the ring . . . I
“That’s what pisses me off about
them. They try to walk around trying to bullshit everyone but in this
business, you can’t fool anyone when you step in that ring. Look at
what happened in Romero’s last fight.
“Everybody has always tried to outdo
me here, know what I’m saying? Try to outdo and embarrass me. When I
first fought here in New Mexico, I’d be lucky if there was a hundred
people out there. There was no boxing scene back then. But when I
defended the title, they sold the joint out. I sold the Pit out, man.
What pissed me off is when Tapia and Romero fought in the Pit, they drew
12-13,000. When I fought there we sold it out—what’s it seat,
19,000? Hell, yeah . . . .”
in the Scene
Since his retirement, Foster has
remained in the sport training the occasional student. He even trained
his son—a heavyweight Foster says could’ve been the world champion
if he’d had a little more heart.
“My second oldest, Tony, now he
could’ve been heavyweight champion of the world—but he didn’t have
the guts. I said, ‘What in the world are you afraid of? Damn, if were
big as you . . . Hell, they could bring King Kong out of the jungle to
fight me.’ He was 6’4” and when in shape, 245 pounds. A beautiful
“But you find a lot of guys like him,
just scared to death. All anyone can do is knock you out—what’s
there to be afraid of?
“The guy could fight, too. He fought
a couple pro fights. I took him to Copenhagen to fight. The guy he was
fighting looked like that Russian guy in Rocky. He said, ‘Golllyy!
Look at that guy!’ I said, ‘Tony, you see one of them big
foreigners, when they’re that big, believe me, take my word for it,
they can’t fight.’
“Well, Tony went out there and went
down when the man just grazed him! Down he went. The doctor jumped in
the ring, I jumped in the ring . .
. the doctor was shining his flashlight in his eyes, he turned to me and
said Tony was alright, his eyes weren’t dilated. I said, ‘Shit no,
they weren’t dilated when he hit the floor! He took a dive out of
fear!’ Man, I was hot! I told my son, ‘When you get back to
Albuquerque, I want you to go downtown to the courthouse and change your
name—‘cause you sure ain’t a Foster. If you had half the guts your
sister had, you’d be heavyweight champion of the world. But I guess
some fighters just like that, just scared to death . . .”
In the last couple years, Foster has
been training two Jason’s: Jason Brey and Jason Cordova. Brey was
scheduled to turn pro a couple months back but was diagnosed with a
vertebrae problem that will most likely keep him out of boxing for good.
The other fighter is Jason Cordova:
“I saw him one day in the gym,
throwing these short punches, turning ‘em over. I called over to him,
said, ‘You know me?’ ‘Oh yeah, Mr. Foster,’ he said. ‘My dad
said to look you up when I get to town. He said maybe you’d help
Cordova was born and raised in
Albuquerque but had lived in Houston for several years before coming
back a couple years ago.
“I told him I’d help him. I
couldn’t believe this kid’s natural talent—he’s learned how to
fight from watching fights on TV. Jason is one bad dude.
“First time I put him in the Gloves
in Clovis, he knocked out everything out there. We left and went to
Denver for Regionals. He knocked out the Army champ there. So, we went
to Cleveland for Nationals and fought this big-ass heavyweight, Man, I
was scared to death, ‘cause Jason looked like a midget in with this
kid. Jason beat this kid, though—sucker had to be 6’4 or 6’5” to
Jason’s 5’10”-5’11”. Only problem was they gave the decision
to the hometown kid.”
is having his shoulder bone operated on and is expected to be out of the
ring for the next five or six months. When he returns, he’ll be
fighting as a light heavyweight. Foster hopes to enter him in this
year’s Golden Gloves, then turn him pro.