As we all await tonight’s action – and some potential thrillers are going down tonight: Tank-Martin, Benavidez-Gvozdyk, Riakporhe-Billam-Smith II, Matias-Paro – it can be fun watching classic fights from yesteryear in an effort at killing time. And it was on this day in 1976 when former heavyweight champions George Foreman and Joe Frazier met in a rematch.

A whole lot had happened to both men and their respective careers since the first time they fought. Of course, it was back in January of 1973, when a young, you could say untested at anything like a top level, Foreman challenged Frazier for the world title. Both unbeaten heavyweights collided in Kingston, Jamaica, in what turned out to be a shockingly one-sided hammering in favor of “Big George.”

Foreman sent Frazier crashing no less than six times to take (see rip) the crown inside two astonishing rounds. Foreman looked set for a long reign, but Muhammad Ali proved otherwise in October of ’74’s “Rumble in the Jungle.” Frazier returned after the shellacking he had suffered against Foreman, with Joe going to war with Ali in two return bouts, the third and final act of their trilogy being the utterly brutal “Thrilla in Manila.” But that fight, which saw both men pushed to hell and back, proved Frazier could still fight.

Now, with Foreman having regrouped after his loss to Ali – Foreman’s epic, winning slugfest with Ron Lyle proving that George could still fight – Foreman Vs. Frazier II was on. It wasn’t exactly a fan-demanded rematch, nor was the decision of the battle-worn Frazier to tangle with Foreman again a smart one. But both men picked up a $1 million payday, and the respective promoters had some fun hyping the fight.

Dubbed “Battle of the Gladiators,” the return fight saw both fighters adorn some embarrassing if eye-catching, ancient garb in pre-fight publicity shots. How silly George and Joe felt as they dressed up is unknown, but it was all business in the ring.

Foreman was 41-1 and desperate for another go at Ali. Frazier was 32-3 and had designs on a “Super Fight IV.” The two former champs met in New York with the NABF strap on the line, and the fight went out on a closed circuit.

It proved to be a lively yet, once again, one-sided affair. Talk about styles making fights. Foreman was as all wrong for Frazier in the return as he had been in Jamaica. That said, Frazier – who had had the snap decision in his dressing room to shave his head (unknowingly giving us a foreshadowing of the look Foreman would adopt in his wholly unpredicted 1980s comeback) – stuck around a little longer this time.

Joe, fighting more defensively than in fight-one, saw it through the first four rounds, even daring to drop his mitts and taunt Foreman at one point. But in the fifth, Foreman broke through with some real hurt. Having backed Frazier up against the ropes, Foreman fired away with a combination, the final left hook sending Frazier south. Joe, never short on raw courage, got back up, but a glowering Foreman soon sent his wounded foe down again, this time with a brutal right hand.

Once again, Frazier got back up, but Eddie Futch, who had saved his fighter at the end of that sickening 14th round in Manila, saved his man again, with Futch signaling that Joe was done for the night. Foreman ate up boos as he “celebrated” his fifth-round TKO victory.

Frazier was done, with his career now over, save a 1981 comeback that saw the Philly legend box a draw with Jumbo Cummings. Foreman never did get that rematch with Ali, instead falling foul of Jimmy Young’s bag of tricks in March of 1977. But Foreman returned, as we all know and are thankful for—this in 1987. It took time and three attempts to become a champion again, but George did it! In 1994, Foreman made history by flattening Michael Moorer to become the oldest heavyweight king.

In June of 1976, Foreman was going over old ground to dish out another beating against Frazier. And to think, George said the only fighter he ever met in the ring that he was afraid of was “Smokin’ Joe.” Foreman sure conquered his fear. Twice over.

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