science and violence

Dedicated to the sweet science and all who carry that ancient torch.
~ Friday, January 17 ~
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Birth of Muhammad Ali

January 17, 1942

Tags: boxing Muhammad Ali January 17 1942 sports sports history martial arts
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~ Wednesday, January 15 ~
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Happy birthday, Bernard Hopkins!
January 15, 1965

Happy birthday, Bernard Hopkins!

January 15, 1965

Tags: boxing Bernard Hopkins January 15 1965 martial arts sports sports history
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~ Sunday, January 12 ~
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After retiring from the sweet science, Joe Frazier found some minor success as a soul singer. Joe Frazier and the Knockouts released a number of singles and several EPs but never produced a full-length LP. In selecting a sample of his work, I nearly chose "My Way", Joe’s twist on the classic by Frank Sinatra. In it, Frazier recalls his fights with Ali and proudly remembers that he fought hard and honestly. But the point of this post isn’t to frame Frazier in the context of Ali, but to remember Joe Frazier, the man.

So here’s “If You Go”. Happy seventieth birthday, Joe. Wish you didn’t have to stay gone.

Tags: boxing Joe Frazier sports sports history martial arts soul rnb r&b
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Birth of Joe Frazier

January 12, 1944

"They said you were through, Joe."
"They lied, pretty boy."

Joe Frazier is Muhammad Ali’s eternal rival. With his straightforward style, calm demeanor and grizzled countenance, he stood opposite to Ali in many ways - even when they weren’t glaring at each other from across the canvas. Though small for a heavyweight, Frazier fought some of the greatest heavyweights of all time without a shred of fear or hesitation. Joe Frazier, quietly brilliant as always, stands not in Ali’s shadow but should be remembered as his own man, a great man, standing shoulder to shoulder with The Greatest…

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Tags: boxing Joe Frazier January 12 1944 sports sports history martial arts
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~ Friday, January 10 ~
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Sorry for the mix-up with the Trinidad post. I do a lot of research all at once, and it’s usually during sleepless nights, when I’m not functioning properly. Add to that my lack of organizational skills and it’s no wonder that pictures often get saved under the wrong names. I usually catch the problems before publication, but when I’m rushing to publish something (like when I’ve just finished a three-page essay on George Foreman), the occasional error slips through the cracks. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and I doubt it’ll be the last, so thanks for sticking with me.

Tags: -L
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Birth of Félix Trinidad
January 10, 1973

Above: Trinidad (left) trades hands with Oscar De La Hoya in their controversial 1999 meeting.

Birth of Félix Trinidad

January 10, 1973

Above: Trinidad (left) trades hands with Oscar De La Hoya in their controversial 1999 meeting.

Tags: boxing Felix Trinidad January 10 1973 sports sports history martial arts
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Boxing is like jazz. The better it is, the less people appreciate it.
— George Foreman (happy birthday, George!)
Tags: george foreman quote sports sports history boxing martial arts
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Birth of George Foreman
January 10, 1949

"That’s my gift. I let that negativity roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If it’s not positive, I didn’t hear it. If you can overcome that, fights are easy."

On this day, sixty-five years ago, a poor black woman gave birth to a child. Looking down at her baby, the mother uttered the first words the infant would ever hear: “he big.”
Thus “Big” George Foreman entered the world. Though large for a baby, he would grow up to be a massive man, towering over his opponents by a head or more. That size would aid him in his rise to heavyweight glory, first as an Olympic gold medalist, then as a two-time world heavyweight champion.
Foreman’s career is among the most distinguished in boxing’s history, boasting eighty-one fights, four The Ring Fights of the Year, two The Ring Fighter of the Year awards and two successful title campaigns separated by a ten-year retirement. He is rated by most as one of the greatest punches in history. He would be ordained as a Baptist preacher, set the record for oldest heavyweight champion (a record that still stands today), become one of the wealthiest fighters in history thanks to his George Foreman grill (which he himself helped to invent) and serve as a popular boxing analyst for HBO. He is among the most interesting and accomplished men in a sport full of fascinating characters.
George Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas and grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Like most great fighters, Foreman had humble origins. “When I was a kid in Houston,” he would later recall in his characteristic humor, “we were so poor we couldn’t afford the last two letter, so we called ourselves po’.” Times were hard for the Foreman family, a veritable clan of seven children, not all from the same man. George himself was a Foreman by virtue of love, not by blood. Food was often scarce, but that didn’t stop him from growing big, and wouldn’t stop him from dreaming big, either…

Foreman, like Marciano before him, almost abandoned boxing for another professional sport: football. He idolized the Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown and hoped to be like him one day. But when George dropped out of school and joined the Job Corps in faraway California where he began to study the sweet science. Foremen actually lost his first bout but continued fighting, amassing an amateur record of 22-4 and winning heavyweight gold in the 1968 Olympics.
Foreman turned pro the next year and began his storied ascent to the championship. He was mentored by the great Sonny Liston, a powerhouse in his own right. Liston seldom smiled; his glowering appearance was the cornerstone of his intimidating presence. Foreman idolized Liston and began to emulate his brooding countenance. This, combined with a thirty-seven fight winning streak (with only three wins by decision), allowed him to strike fear into the heavyweight division. “Big” George cast an even bigger shadow.
Foreman’s lucky star finally rose on January 22, 1973. Joe Frazier, who’d taken the heavyweight title during Muhammad Ali’s exile, defended it upon his return and crushed all challengers put before him, feared no man, no matter how big. He was a warrior who stood toe-to-toe with some of the greatest heavyweights of his or any era, becoming more dangerous with every passing second. Though Foreman stood a head above Frazier, he feared him. But when Frazier offered him a shot at the heavyweight title, Foremen seized the opportunity. Foreman upset the 3:1 odds, knocking Frazier down six times en route to a second-round TKO victory. Foreman survived the Sunshine Showdown and was reborn as the heavyweight champion of the world.
Foreman would defend that title only twice: first against Jose Roman, then the more significant Ken Norton. Foreman’s next opponent would be his most dangerous yet: Muhammad Ali. The two traveled to Zaire, Africa in the summer of ‘74 to prepare for the famous Rumble in the Jungle. There, Foreman suffered an eye injury that prohibited him from sparring. Foreman would not back down; he would fight his legendary challenger in any condition.
The bout would be the great unveiling of Ali’s famous rope-a-dope. His manager and trainer, Angelo Dundee, loosened the ring ropes before the fight, allowing Ali to sway away from Foreman while on the ropes, taking away Foreman’s punishing corner game. Ali boxed Foreman from a distance, allowed himself to be bullied into the ropes and snuck punches to Foreman’s face while avoiding and blocking George’s own. Knowing that Foreman suffered from low stamina, he taunted Foreman, prompting him to rain down ineffective punches, frequently clinched him behind the neck (a foul) and leaned on him, forcing him to support Ali’s weight (another foul). An increasingly tired and frustrated Foreman began to swing wide, hoping to close Ali’s merciless mouth with one big punch. Ali countered with a furious flurry that put Foreman down for the count. Ali would be the only man to beat Foreman inside the distance.
Incensed, Foreman went back to the drawing board and began to campaign for a rematch. Despite a FOTY performance against Ron Lyle and a second victory against Joe Frazier (after which Joe retired), the bout never materialized. When George was beaten by Jimmy Young - an inferior fighter - in yet another Fight of the Year, Foreman returned to his locker room dejected. There he had a religious experience, an epiphany of sorts that changed the shape of his future. Seized by a passion for ministry, Foreman immediately retired as a boxer and began his new life as a preacher.
Foreman lived a peaceful life for ten long years. He served his flock dutifully and made ends meet through celebrity endorsements, dropping the cold, merciless mask of his past and embracing the cheerful spirit he’d possessed in his youth and regained through religion.
Paradoxically, it was his love of God that sent him back to the ring. During his years of quiet service, Foreman had built a youth center. Funding was scarce, so Foreman, remembering the great paydays of his fighting career, decided to make a comeback to support the center. Foreman was an antique, a relic from a great but long-past era; few took his return seriously. But Foreman was still a dangerous (if slower) puncher, and a healthier lifestyle had solved his stamina issues. Though beaten by Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison, Foreman would finally achieve his goal of regaining the heavyweight championship when, on May 11, 1994, he would knock out Michael Moorer for the WBA and IBF championships.
It was during that same year that Foreman would have his greatest financial victory: the introduction of the George Foreman Grill. Foreman had publicly stated that his stamina had been improved by eating healthy and that he ate two fat-reduced hamburgers before every match. Inventors Michael Boehm and Robert Johnson (note: no relation to legendary blues musician) approached Foreman with a proposition: if he would endorse their product, they would give him 40% of every sold grill. Foreman agreed and even contributed to the design of the grill before pitching it to a larger company, which accepted the idea. Foreman’s great personality, larger-than-life story, high profile and memorable slogans helped the grill attain worldwide success. The grill’s royalties soon eclipsed his boxing earnings, as much as $4,500,000 a month, and in 1999, the producers paid him $139,000,000 for the full rights to the product (and the elimination of that pesky 40%).
Foreman’s boxing career ended for good in 1997 when he lost a controversial decision against Shannon Briggs. It was an elimination bout to determine the next challenger for the true heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis. Whether it was the loss of the title shot or the acrid taste of corruption that made Foreman reconsider his sport, Foreman retired shortly after. He became a commentator for HBO, a partnership that would last until 2004.
Today, George lives happily in retirement, enjoying the company of his twelve children: Natalia, Leola, Michi, Freeda, Courtney, Isabella, George Jr., George II, George III, George IV, George V, George VI and Georgetta (this is not a joke). 

Birth of George Foreman

January 10, 1949

"That’s my gift. I let that negativity roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If it’s not positive, I didn’t hear it. If you can overcome that, fights are easy."

On this day, sixty-five years ago, a poor black woman gave birth to a child. Looking down at her baby, the mother uttered the first words the infant would ever hear: “he big.”

Thus “Big” George Foreman entered the world. Though large for a baby, he would grow up to be a massive man, towering over his opponents by a head or more. That size would aid him in his rise to heavyweight glory, first as an Olympic gold medalist, then as a two-time world heavyweight champion.

Foreman’s career is among the most distinguished in boxing’s history, boasting eighty-one fights, four The Ring Fights of the Year, two The Ring Fighter of the Year awards and two successful title campaigns separated by a ten-year retirement. He is rated by most as one of the greatest punches in history. He would be ordained as a Baptist preacher, set the record for oldest heavyweight champion (a record that still stands today), become one of the wealthiest fighters in history thanks to his George Foreman grill (which he himself helped to invent) and serve as a popular boxing analyst for HBO. He is among the most interesting and accomplished men in a sport full of fascinating characters.

George Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas and grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Like most great fighters, Foreman had humble origins. “When I was a kid in Houston,” he would later recall in his characteristic humor, “we were so poor we couldn’t afford the last two letter, so we called ourselves po’.” Times were hard for the Foreman family, a veritable clan of seven children, not all from the same man. George himself was a Foreman by virtue of love, not by blood. Food was often scarce, but that didn’t stop him from growing big, and wouldn’t stop him from dreaming big, either…

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Tags: boxing George Foreman January 10 1949 sports sports history martial arts
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~ Tuesday, January 7 ~
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Happy birthday, Vic Darchinyan!
January 7, 1976

Happy birthday, Vic Darchinyan!

January 7, 1976

Tags: boxing Vic Darchinyan January 7 1976 sports sports history martial arts
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~ Saturday, January 4 ~
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Birth of Floyd Patterson
January 4, 1935

"It’s easy to do anything in victory. It’s in defeat that a man reveals himself."

Floyd Patterson was a man for the record books. At age twenty-one, Floyd Patterson took the world heavyweight title, simultaneously becoming the youngest heavyweight champion (later overturned by Mike Tyson), youngest undisputed heavyweight champion (which still stands today) and the first Olympic gold medalist to hold the heavyweight title. Four years later, Patterson would make his mark on history yet again by regaining the heavyweight title after losing it - something that had never been done in the lifetime of the sport. 
This man, a maker of history, a genteel, well-spoken man known as “the gentleman of boxing,” had once been a mere petty thief. The youngest of eleven children in a poor family, Patterson was born in North Carolina and raised in Brooklyn, where he invested his time in avoiding class and perpetrating theft. At age fourteen, he met a man who would change his life: the legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, whose legend, like Patterson’s, was about to begin…
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Cus D’Amato spent many long afternoons waiting for a champion, someone with real potential who could prove the effectiveness of his teachings. Patterson was that champion. Floyd walked into the gym in 1949, and in 1952, at just seventeen, Patterson won the New York Golden Gloves middleweight championship, national amateur boxing middleweight championship and the coveted Olympic gold medal.
Having dominated the world of amateur boxing from bottom to top, Patterson turned pro in September of that year, fighting as a light heavyweight. He worked his way quickly through the ranks, taking his only early loss in a highly controversial decision against former champion Joey Maxim. As he grew in fame, Patterson revealed his ultimate goal: though he fought at light heavyweight today, he was resolved to one day become heavyweight champion of the world.
The opportunity would come more quickly than he thought. On April 27, 1956, Rocky Marciano announced his sudden and unexpected retirement, leaving the undisputed heavyweight championship without an heir. A six-man tournament was organized to determine the new champion with offers sent to the greatest fighters of the era. Among them were the light heavyweight champion, Archie Moore, and the number one contender, Floyd himself. Both accepted. Despite their size disadvantage, the two best light heavyweights conquered the best of the heavyweight division to meet in the tournament finals. On November 40, 1956, Patterson knocked out Moore in the fifth round, taking the heavyweight championship and writing his name in boxing history.
Patterson defended his title four times before facing Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson in 1959. Johansson knocked Patterson down seven times, forcing referee Ruby Goldstein to stop the fight in the third round. Patterson was granted a rematch to be fought one year later. Floyd returned Ingemar’s brutalization, winning by fifth-round knockout in 1960’s The Ring Fight of the Year. The final act of the trilogy, which took place in 1961, saw Patterson victorious once again, sealing the legendary series. Their battles ingrained a deep sense of mutual respect. They become fast friends and frequently crossed the Atlantic - a 4,000-mile journey - to visit one another.
Patterson defended his title once more before facing Sonny Liston. Liston had long been the number one contender but had never received a title shot. An ugly bear of a man with connections to organized crime, Liston struck a sharp contrast with the suave Patterson. Black civic leaders asked Patterson not to fight Liston, who they perceived as a threat to the civil rights movement. A Patterson loss, largely considered a foregone conclusion, would catapult Liston - a poor representative of their race - into the spotlight.
Patterson had avoided Liston for several years, but there comes a time when all men must face their demons. Patterson met his on September 25, 1962, giving one of the worst performances of his career. Rather than relying on his speed and craft, Patterson was drawn into an ugly match, the kind of fight that Liston thrived in. In defeat, Patterson made history yet again, if less gloriously than before, by becoming the first heavyweight champion to lose in the very first round. Patterson left the arena in disguise to avoid the shame of recognition.
Patterson had already recovered the championship once and yearned to do it again, but it was not to be. He fought Liston again and lost by knockout, lasting only four seconds longer than he had before. After two consecutive first-round losses, his public support had all but evaporated, but a handful of wins and a Fight of the Year victory over George Chavulo preserved his heavyweight contention.
In 1965, Patterson fought heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who’d taken the title from Liston in seven rounds and defended it with a first-round knockout. Patterson’s desire for the heavyweight championship was such that he took the fight with a damaged sacroiliac joint. Ali despised Patterson, who spoke against the Nation of Islam and, like Ernie Terrell, refused to call him by his new name (like many, Floyd referred to Ali as “Cassius Clay,” his birthname). As vengeance, Ali mocked and battered Patterson for eleven rounds and knocked him out in the twelfth.
Still Patterson chased the dream: to hold the championship not twice, but three times. (Ironically, this was to be achieved by his nemesis, Muhammad Ali.) His drive was obsessive. He made a run at the WBA heavyweight title but failed to dethrone champion Jimmy Ellis. Following the bout, his first wife, Sandra Patterson, begged him to retire. He was winning, certainly, but he would never be champion again. Patterson divorced her and kept fighting for one more shot at a heavyweight championship.
Patterson finally fought his last in 1972. Ali had returned from his long exile, failed to wrest the belt from Joe Frazier and was, like Patterson, mounting a campaign for another title shot. The two clashed for a second and final time. Patterson dug deep and showed flashes of former glory but was ultimately put away in the seventh round.
Floyd Patterson never officially retired. He wanted to fight and believed he could win. He left the door open, dreaming of a resplendent return and wearing the heavyweight belt, but he never did. Age closed the door for him, and when it did, he found other worthwhile pursuits. He spent time with old friends, not least among which was Ingemar Johansson, with whom he ran the Stockholm Marathon in ‘82 and ‘83. He tried his hand at film and had a dignified run as chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission.
In the twilight of his life, Patterson suffered from Alzheimer’s syndrome and prostate cancer and experienced symptoms of dementia pugilistica. He died in his home in New Paltz, New York on May 11, 2006. He was seventy-one years old.

Birth of Floyd Patterson

January 4, 1935

"It’s easy to do anything in victory. It’s in defeat that a man reveals himself."

Floyd Patterson was a man for the record books. At age twenty-one, Floyd Patterson took the world heavyweight title, simultaneously becoming the youngest heavyweight champion (later overturned by Mike Tyson), youngest undisputed heavyweight champion (which still stands today) and the first Olympic gold medalist to hold the heavyweight title. Four years later, Patterson would make his mark on history yet again by regaining the heavyweight title after losing it - something that had never been done in the lifetime of the sport. 

This man, a maker of history, a genteel, well-spoken man known as “the gentleman of boxing,” had once been a mere petty thief. The youngest of eleven children in a poor family, Patterson was born in North Carolina and raised in Brooklyn, where he invested his time in avoiding class and perpetrating theft. At age fourteen, he met a man who would change his life: the legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, whose legend, like Patterson’s, was about to begin…

Read More

Tags: boxing Floyd Patterson January 4 1935 sports sports history martial arts
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