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In April of 1967, Jimmy Ellis pounded out a fifteen round decision over Jerry Quarry to win the vacant W.B.A. heavyweight championship. In March of 1968, Joe Frazier halted Buster Mathis to win heavyweight title recognition in New York State. Two months later Bob Foster knocked out the great Dick Tiger to capture the light heavyweight crown. Foster felt the big money was in the heavyweight division and he began to challenge the champions. Frazier actively defended his title turning back Manuel Ramos, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonevena, and Dave Zyglewicz. Ellis on the other hand made only one defense, a disputed verdict over ex-champion Floyd Patterson. Proposed matches for Jimmy against Henry Cooper and Gregorio Peralta never materialized. By the time Ellis met Frazier in February of 1970 to unify the crown, the ring rust had settled in. After Frazier destroyed Ellis he would go on to meet Foster later on that year with disastrous results for Bob.
What if during his period of idleness before the Frazier debate had Ellis entertained Foster’s challenge? Foster as we would find out could not handle Frazier’s power, strength, and aggression. How would he have fared against a master boxer like Ellis? It may have gone something like this …
The 198 pound Ellis strides out to meet the 181-pound Foster to begin round one. Quickly they began to trade jabs. Jimmy is quicker but Foster is harder and more accurate. By the middle of the round it is apparent that this is becoming a chess match. Then out of nowhere Ellis connects with a whistling overhand right and Foster is shaken. Bob stumbles back against the ropes and Ellis is right on him. Jimmy just misses with another right and then connects with a hard left hook to the head and Bob’s in serious trouble. Ellis is winging at Foster who can’t seem to get away from the ropes. Then in a wild exchange Foster hurts Ellis with a short left hook. Momentarily stunned Ellis takes a few steps back and now Foster is jabbing his way off the ropes. Ellis comes in and connects with another overhand right but this one lands high on Foster’s head. In another heated exchange they both land left hooks but Fosters does more damage. Ellis now has a small cut on his right eyelid as the bell sounds ending the round. Angelo Dundee the manager-trainer of Ellis is giving Jimmy a tongue lashing in the corner. Ellis comes out fast for round two and takes a couple of hard jabs. In return he lands a hard left hook to the body that makes Bob wince. Foster’s trying to slowdown the pace but Ellis, his ears still ringing from Dundee’s tirade continues to press. Foster is landing more punches but Jimmy’s body punches are bothering Bob. As Ellis moves in Foster catches him with a jab and then he slams in a short, chopping right flush on the jaw and Ellis sinks to one knee. Jimmy takes an eight count shaking his head as he’s trying to clear the cobwebs. As Foster comes in Jimmy clinches. On the inside Ellis is much stronger and he lands some effective punches to Bob’s lean rib cage. Jimmy appears to be all right now but he’s staying close to smother Fosters punches.
Dundee is livid in the corner between rounds while Foster has a smug look. He knows he can hurt Ellis now. Ellis is still trying to stay close in round three. Bob is using his jab to good effect and Jimmy’s cut has been re-opened. Bob is trying to shorten up his left hook hoping that will discourage Ellis from coming inside. Jimmy’s making the fight but Foster’s landing the more effective blows. As Bob dips down to throw a short left hook Ellis lets go of a vicious overhand right that catches Foster flush on the jaw and Bob goes down flat on his back. He begins to get up at “6” and just barely beats the count. The referee asks Bob if he’s all right and he says yes, but his eyes are unfocused. The referee lets it continue and Ellis is on him in a flash. Another overhand lands, but it’s a little off target. Still it wobbled Bob who makes a feeble attempt to jab. Ellis slips inside and lands a tremendous left hook to Foster’s chin and Bob crumbles to the canvas. There will be no count as Foster cornermen come to his aid.
At 175 pounds, Bob Foster was possibly the best light heavyweight of all time. He just did not have the strength to battle the big boys. Doug Jones, Zora Folley, and Ernie Terrell all handled Bob easily in his pre-championship days.
Jimmy Ellis earned his title by beating Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonevena, and Jerry Quarry. No easy task. A deceptively hard puncher, he had the granite chinned Bonevena down twice. Also, he nearly had Martin out in the first round of their fight.
By Jim Amato
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