ESB Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2008
Re: George Foreman doesn't retire in '77
No matter how well trained he was, no matter how he fought, or how well his head was, he'd still have a very serious deficit in hand speed. There's no way he out jabs the prime Holmes who began with Shavers I. His round seven stunning of Young was the latest round in which he displayed serious power during the 1970s. There was still nothing to show he could manage the championship distance. He staggered Jimmy at the outset of that seventh round, then failed miserably to close the show, so much so that Young was able to raise his arms in response to the crowd's cheers when the bell rang to end it.
By 1980, Tex Cobb may have been a real nightmare for Foreman, a mid ring rope a dope punching bag with stamina. Only Holmes dominated Tex before Randall started taking coked out dives and fixes in 1985. He gave Norton, Dokes and Buster Douglas hell.
Mercado could have been another Foreman-Lyle war for George. He'd have better taken Bernardo out early like Shavers couldn't, because if not, the Columbian was one of those sluggers who had the late round power to take him if George gassed. [Don't forget that he was the only man to wipe out former amateur foe Berbick other than Tyson. And he did get off the deck in the third to rally against Shavers.]
John Tate would not have his guard down against George. He did deal successfully with established power punchers like Mercado, Knoetze and Coetzee before the Weaver shock. He was the biggest HW Title claimant during the classic championship distance era [which I define as between the Louis-Simon I scheduled 20 rounder and the post Mancini-Kim fallout]. In his peak year of 1979, he would have had the skills to successfully outbox Foreman at long range, and very possibly the physical strength to neutralize George's own physical strength. The 240 pound Tate of the Coetzee win would likely pull away from a fading Foreman as he did with Gerrie.
Foreman was quite familiar with Big John, having provided color commentary for Tate's three Olympic bouts in Montreal with Cosell on ABC, including John's knockout loss to Stevenson. But George didn't share Stevenson's quickness of hand, mobility, ring generalship and straightness of punching. Both would know Foreman could take Tate out, and I think that would have been much to John's advantage in 1979. Looking at how Tate completely smothered Weaver against the ropes for 13 of 15 rounds, I wonder how the test of physical strength would play out. That's a contest John could afford to lose, with his peak skills, stamina and mobility. However, if Foreman's the one who actually finds HIS back against the ropes, and on the back foot for a change, he'd be in very serious trouble. We never saw anybody do this to George in competition, and he himself said Liston was the only guy he couldn't force backwards in sparring. However, if anybody in the late 1970s could stand their ground like that against Foreman, Tate and Cobb would have been the ones.
Greg Page was fast, could take a good shot, and stay on his toes at his early 1980s best. I'm not a fan of his, but I've always believed his speed, mobility and chin would see him through against Cooney. I think this template could also carry him through with George, but it would have to be the version of Page who defended the USBA Title against LeDoux, Young, Snipes and Tillis.
Rematching Young would not reverse the outcome of their bout in 1977. Jimmy took 11 of 12 rounds in his 1976 rematch with Lyle. Only Ocasio was weird enough to beat Young twice. Foreman was far more predictable than Jaws. I think Jimmy would be inside his head now, and Young would win another decision by a larger margin. Cooney wasn't able to dent Jimmy to the body or head before inflicting the winning cut with a long right. Young seems to have actually increased in durability as he got older, and was acclaimed for comeback of the year after going 5-0 in 1981, going on the road to decision the feared Jeff Sims.
Norton would always be toast against George. We now know Cooney never had the chin or defensive ability to last for long against Foreman.
He knew Dokes from the time Michael was a kid. Although Dokes had tremendously quick hands, he also had short arms, not very good elusiveness, and wasn't much of a mover. He couldn't take the shots he received in Cobb I, Ocasio I or Weaver II and last for long.
Coetzee would be pick-em. Ali was his idol. Gerrie had the heavily doctored right hand to hurt George with, and the skills to outbox him. However, his speed and defensive elusiveness weren't that great, and a negative mentality his idiot father Philip poisoned him with undermined his confidence. Like Jerry Quarry and Gerry Cooney, Gerrie Coetzee's doubts and worries about his stamina severely compromised that very endurance in some key bouts. However, he might be confident that he could outlast Foreman after what Ali and Young did.
Does George regain the title? He might slip in between Leon and Holmes to take Norton's WBC Title before Larry gets a crack at it, but he wouldn't be able to defend it against the Assassin after Holmes-Shavers I. The losses to Ali and Young would have hurt his standing terribly after 1977, but Ken wouldn't be regarded as the top of the food chain with George still swimming about. Norton, if he still got awarded the WBC Title as he did, would have been honor bound to validate it by attempting his first defense against Foreman. We know how that turns out. Then, George in turn would need to redeem it against Young [who would be rejuvenated after Foreman bombed out Ken a second time] or Holmes after Larry's 12 round domination of Shavers. I have a hard time seeing George entering the 1980s as a 30 year old champion.