Jack Johnson could beat Frazier (but it wouldn't be easy)

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by Glass City Cobra, Aug 4, 2022.

  1. Glass City Cobra

    Glass City Cobra Boxing Addict Full Member

    Jan 6, 2017
    1-Johnson was one of the best inside fighters. Many heavyweights (especially within recent years) neglect inside skills, but Johnson was an expert. He loved getting rough bumping shoulder to shoulder, throwing short sharp punches to the gut, and mauling guys. I would say he's right up there with guys like Bowe, Holyfield, and Frazier himself. Johnson was also good defensively on the inside and knew how to frame guys, manipulate their guards, cover up, parry, etc frustrating them with spoiling tactics. He would even grab guys by the bicep and squeeze just to wear them out.

    2-Johnson was one of the few defensive specialists at HW. His defense wasn't pretty and polished the way Mayweather or Whitaker were, but he had very underrated defensive skills few people were using at the time. In addition to his parrying and spoiling tactics mentioned above, he could also time guys as they came in with counters. His stance with both arms near the belly meant that Fraziers favorite target was more difficult to focus on.

    He could sway and slip punches gracefully, even showing off talking to ringside people while dodging! Johnson could occupy the mid range with a probing jab or having both hands out using the "mummy" stance to stop guys mid punch. Does that remind you of someone...?

    3-Johnson was one of the best clinchers in history. Johnson had great physical strength and was one of the best clinchers. If he needed a break from the Frazier tornado, Johnson would have no trouble tying him up. Johnson used both under and over hooks to control people in the clinches and manipulated them to tire them out while having one arm halfway free, encouraging them to fight harder and struggle only to drag them deeper and deeper into his quicksand tactics.

    4-Johnson had good footwork. When he wanted to, Johnson could be very methodical and graceful. He didn't merely hop and dance around, he moved his feet and hands together in sync. He would move inches at a time while occupying the mid range moving at a similar speed, or he'd quickly shuffle forward, backwards, left or right. My coach told me the boxers with the best footwork are ones who can fight in all 4 directions, not simply moving in a predictable circle clockwise. Yes Frazier could could off the ring and chop down movers, but as I mentioned Johnson wasn't your typical mover. The small adjustments he makes would be much harder to neutralize than a guy whose taking huge strides (which take up a lot of energy).

    5-Johnson had a good uppercut. Obviously it wasn't as devastating as some of the best uppercut artists out there, but it was a good solid blow and, more importantly, he had good timing. He could even sneak uppercuts in from close range chest to chest. Johnson would never try to KO a rugged tough swarmer like Frazier early, he'd establish a good gameplan centered around frustrating and controlling Frazier while controlling the pace, timing him with an upper cut, duking it out up close, then tying Frazier up when he needs a breather. A single uppercut wouldn't be devasting, but after dozens of them over 15 rounds, even smoking Joe would be worn out and hesitant to just charge in. And while Johnson didn't have great power, he kept it throughout the fight and could stop or KO opponents late on occasion.

    6-Johnson's superb stamina and relaxed pace. One thing often overlooked in h2h discussions is how Johnson had a very sneaky method: unlike some boxers who were slow starters by nature, sometimes Johnson would start slow on purpose just so that the opponent would tire quicker and he'd still be relatively fresh later on. Johnson would slowly pick up the pace as the rounds went on surprising his opponents. Obviously Frazier is a stamina monster and fought at break neck speeds even late, I'm not saying Johnson could match his workrate. What Im saying is if anyone could keep up with Frazier late in a fight, it would be Johnson. Johnson's confident, calm demeanor and ability to relax in one of the most tiring sports is a testament to his endurance.

    In summary:

    With a lenient ref, Johnson would be a very difficult opponent h2h. He had a graceful yet very grimy style meant to frustrate opponents and neutralize their offense. I believe his combination of unique traits could present an interesting challenge for Frazier who was sometimes 1 dimensional and relied heavily on swarming. Fraziers best weapon was the hook, and while it was fast and lethal it would also be predictable to a smart fighter like Johnson. Frazier sometimes didn't even bother setting it up, he'd throw a hook as a lead and would favor it over his right side quite often. In comparison, Johnson was a very well rounded fighter and had many traps and tricks that could take Frazier outside of his comfort zone or make him pay for refusing to adjust to any other method.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2022
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  2. greynotsoold

    greynotsoold Boxing Addict Full Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    Tying him up inside and landing uppercuts is a good starting point if you want to beat Joe Frazier.
    The next key is hitting him with a hook inside his hook. Frazier threw his off his left foot and that leads to wide hooks.
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  3. populistpugilist

    populistpugilist New Member Full Member

    May 18, 2017

    I've often attempted (to varying degrees of success) to point out the similarities between Johnson and young Foreman at mid-range (even those strange straight-armed winging hooks to the body) while arguing that Johnson was actually better than Foreman at extended range.

    He must have been quite a shock to people brought up on Corbett and Fitzsimmons.
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  4. Fergy

    Fergy Walking Dead Full Member

    Jan 8, 2017
    He was years ahead of his time.
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  5. Seamus

    Seamus Proud Kulak Full Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    Except Johnson beat no one remotely in Frazier's class as a heavyweight. And Frazier beat the best heavyweight ever.

    Using those strongarm techniques and bicep pinching against lilliputians and hammer and tong guys isnt the same as doing it against a prime Frazier. Not even close. Johnson likely to get blown up trying that game.
  6. Pugguy

    Pugguy Well-Known Member Full Member

    Aug 22, 2021
    Nice breakdown.

    Just on the uppercut. I remember reading an article contemporary to Johnson’s time describing that punch.

    It described Johnson being able to throw it at impossibly close range - as you stated, chest to chest. Next to no space/room required.

    It also stated that Johnson’s body language otherwise gave little or no indication that he was about to launch the uppercut, no shifting of feet etc., so it was well disguised.

    Finally, to give it the extra power with little body movement otherwise, it was said Johnson wiggled his hips as he executed the punch to give it torque.

    Now if one didn’t see it on film, they might allow for some romanticism in the description, it reads as almost too perfect -but, there it is on film, particularly throughout the Jeffries fight - exactly as advertised.

    In close, there is one instance of poor Jeffries, battered and bruised, launching his own titanic uppercut only for Johnson to easily slip it with a slight tilt of his head - leaving Jeffries unimpeded fist to shoot high into the sky.

    To add insult to the missed punch, as if to show “this is how it’s done”, Johnson immediately returns serve with his own searing uppercut that lands flush, rocking Jeff to his heels, causing him to stumble forward into Johnson.

    I think Johnson’s power might’ve been a bit overrated (read: the ability to end a fight at anytime with a swish of the glove) but he did carry a lot of guys and there was no illusion in the savage manner Jeffries head was snapped back time and again. Some very nice power there.
  7. johnmaff36

    johnmaff36 Boxing Addict Full Member

    Nov 5, 2009
    Nice effort in putting your point across and you make some valid points. However, as we all know, both fighters are on their best night in these mythical match ups and , for me, FOTC Frazier is a nightmare. I cant see Jack coming out of it good
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  8. Mark Dunham

    Mark Dunham Active Member Full Member

    Mar 19, 2021
    i dont see anything that exceptional about Joe. didnt you all see the Foreman fight?

    Johnson in 12
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  9. 15 rounds

    15 rounds Member banned Full Member

    Jul 19, 2022
    Just because Johnson was able to do that with Ketchel and Burns doesn't mean Frazier could fall for that. Boxing evolved and Frazier was obviously the better fighter. Far better than the men whom Johnson fought. He was bigger and hit harder in comparison to Ketchel and Burns for sure. Yet I find most his points agreeable and he says it could in theory be done. He isn't picking Johnson to beat Frazier, he laying out how he would be difficult for mostly left hook only Frazier to deal with him. But if Johnson thinks he can avoid Frazier's left hook fired with relentlessly with stamina, speed and accuracy and keep Frazier at bey like he has done with small or old men he's got another thing coming.
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  10. populistpugilist

    populistpugilist New Member Full Member

    May 18, 2017
    And no doubt part of what makes Johnson's skills look so good is that the fighters of his time were clueless about how to respond to them, besides his obvious physical gifts over them.
    Fast forward twenty or thirty years -- much less sixty! -- into a world in which fighters had long since caught up to Johnson's game and he may very well have looked ordinary.
    So, it's a tremendous amount of speculation that runs the risk of overestimating Johnson's actual greatness based on him being decades ahead of his time and of underestimating him based on the quality of his competition that was no fault of his own.
    Surely the safer bet is that Frazier prevails, probably by about round six, but GlassCityCobra makes a strong prima facie case for why Johnson merits a fair bit of benefit of the doubt, particularly relative to his peers.
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  11. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Liston was good, but no "Tire Iron" Jones Full Member

    Jun 30, 2005
    In most of our footage of him, Johnson looks primitive. Often very primitive indeed. Frazier does not.

    If Johnson wins, it will have to be a wrestling / dirty boxing match with a super permissive ref. And even then, it's not a given that he'll tire before Frazier.
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  12. ETM

    ETM I thought I did enough to win. Full Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    I don't discount Jack Johnson chances here. He was big, quick had a good defense. Jack Johnson was fearless as well.
    I wonder how Johnson would adjust to the speed of Frazier's attack. There was a different style of fighting at that time and don't think anyone was bringing heat like Joe Frazier in 1909. Not until Dempsey came along did boxing start to change.

    Johnson could be effective ripping uppercuts with both hands. Frazier is there to be hit but...Joe naturally would slice some hooks over an uppercut the way he deposited Muhammad Ali to the floor.
    Interesting matchup.
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  13. Glass City Cobra

    Glass City Cobra Boxing Addict Full Member

    Jan 6, 2017
    Frazier wasn't very physically strong. He had bad results that are well documented when he was competing with other stars. We have footage of Johnson doing bridges with 2 men standing on his abs. Johnson fought plenty of other black fighters from the murderer's row who had bigger physiques and more strength than Frazier. I would bet any amount of money Johnson could keep up with Frazier in the clinches.

    Class is one thing, clash of styles is another. Johnson was a great wrestler, had a great uppercut, good defense, and could smother guys punches. All tools useful for neutralizing a swarmer. He literally used a lot of the same tactics Ali and Foreman used.
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  14. RockyJim

    RockyJim Boxing Addict Full Member

    Mar 26, 2005
    Not the same Frazier.
  15. Dempsey1238

    Dempsey1238 Boxing Junkie Full Member

    Jul 10, 2005
    I give Johnson little chance in a 60's 70's rules. The game has change so much. Now had this fight happen in 1910, I can see Johnson tying up Frazier and stop any work Fraizer plans to do, and making it more a wrestling 1900's boxing match as was used in the day, (Gans Nelson anyone??). With a modern ref, there is no way Johnson would be allowed to get away with that.