Robert Silva is continuing his list of the greatest Light Heavyweight boxers of all-time. If you missed any of his previous essays, they are linked below, and then you can read his essay on the second greatest Light Heavyweight, Bob Foster.
In the vaunted history of the Light Heavyweight division, no fighter exhibited greater power in both hands than the Air Force veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico Bob Foster. At 6’3, the Albuquerque Thin Man had a wingspan and power reminiscent of Featherweight great Sandy Saddler. Behind a lethal left jab, Foster would walk down his opponent until he connected with his patented hammer of a left hook or right cross. Once he became Light Heavyweight Champion of the World, Foster upped his reign of terror on other Light Heavyweights, resulting in becoming the second greatest Light Heavyweight of all-time.
Because of his height and destructive power, Foster spent the early part of his career with a few forays as a heavyweight. Despite his great power and height, Foster realized he’d be better served at 175 pounds. Once he settled in at 175, Foster put on a string of impressive performances resulting in a shot at the Light Heavyweight champ, Dick Tiger. On May 24, 1968 at the hallowed Madison Square Garden, the 26-year-old Foster severely punished the 38-year-old champion from Nigeria for the first three rounds. Then, in the fourth round, Foster landed a blistering three punch combination that put the 5’8 Tiger to sleep. The seven inch height difference made it look like Foster was abusing a child. Foster would continue to abuse other Light Heavyweights throughout his reign.
In Foster’s first nine defenses of the 175-pound crown, eight times he knocked out or stopped his challenger. Only Ray Anderson was able to survive the entire 15-round limit with Foster. Then came a major closed circuit opportunity for Foster on June 27, 1972 in Las Vegas.
Foster’s World Light Heavyweight title was on the line for the 10th time that night against the undefeated slick boxer Mike Quarry, younger brother of Jerry who would face Muhammad Ali in the main event that night in Vegas. Many felt that Quarry’s movement would give the New Mexico Thin Man problems. Since winning the title in 1968, no one had given Foster any resistance when attempting to defeat him for the title. The 30-year-old Foster would make sure his fight with Quarry would continue in that same vain.
The first four rounds were evenly fought as Quarry’s constant movement gave him opportunities to hit and not get hit. Despite Quarry’s continual backward motion, Foster kept walking him down with his left jab and applied so much intense pressure that by the onset of the fifth round, Quarry was not moving as much. Quarry began trading with Foster and right before the bell sounded to end round five, Foster landed a monumental left hook that sent Quarry crashing to the canvas practically comatose. It was of the great knockouts in the history of the Light Heavyweight division.
Foster’s next fight saw him beginning to fade as a great fighter. He fought the slick Great Britain southpaw Chris Finnegan in Finnegan’s own backyard on September 26, 1972. In an incredible war in which Finnegan landed several times throughout the fight, Foster finally put Finnegan down and out for a ten count with a solid right cross. It was more of Finnegan being exhausted and the accumulation of punches he took that resulted in the knockout than it was that one right hand caused the knockout. It would be the last knockout Foster produced as Light Heavyweight champion.
After lackluster 15-round decisions in his next three fights, including a disputed draw in his 14th and final final successful defense against Jorge Ahumada on June 17, 1974, Foster retired, relinquishing his 175-pound title, thus ending an incredible six year title reign as the second greatest Light Heavyweight of all-time. Foster made an ill advised comeback a year later before finally retiring for good at the age of 36 in 1978. Foster then served as a police officer in the Albuquerque Sheriff’s Department for several years.