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The Klitschko Brothers in the 1970s: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Joe Frazier are Waiting…

By Joe Wilson

The chaotic events of the 60’s, including war and social change, seemed destined to continue in the 70’s. Major trends included a growing disillusionment of government, advances in civil rights, increased influence women’s movement, a heightened concern for the environment and expensive space exploration.

Many of the “radical” ideas of the 60’s gained wider acceptance in the 70’s, and became mainstream in the American life and culture. Devastating war, social realignment and presidential impeachment proceedings, and the American culture still flourished.

Indeed, the events of that time reflected in and became the inspiration for much of the music, literature, entertainment, fashion and yes, even the sport of boxing of this new decade. Population in the 70’s was estimated at 204, 879,000; Unemployment was just over 4 million and the average yearly salary was not even $8,000 dollars.

Heavyweight boxing was better than ever approaching the 70’s. The most popular names in the headlines of all newspapers and magazines were; Muhammad Ali, Smokin’ Joe” Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton. These four fighters were the face of boxing at that time.

There were also Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers and Jerry Quarry mentioned in these same circles. Just before the end of that decade emerged Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes. It seemed during that time these fighters never had to look hard for competition. All of these fighters were top elite heavyweights of this era.

During the early 70s, I was a young boy, not even a teenager yet, but I do remember watching some of these bouts on ABC Sports Television for free. Howard Cosell was the main analyst at that time. What I remembered most about the heavyweights of that era, was their conditioning.

It seemed the heavyweights back then was naturally gifted. I remember watching Ali and Frazier during training camp before one of their big fights. These guys trained very hard for a couple months leading up to the fight. There was no such thing as HBO’s 24/7; however, small segments of each fighter training, while in training camp would be televised leading up to the fight.

These guys chopped down trees, ran many miles up hills in the rain and snow. Conditioning seemed to never be a real problem entering a fight. Ali and Frazier fought for fifteen brutal rounds it seemed, every time they fought. These fighters were gym rats of the highest order. They took training very seriously in the 70’s.

George Foreman would sometimes chain up a Volkswagen Beetle to his waist and pull it until he worked up a sweat. He chopped down trees and would beat up punching bags until there was nothing left inside the bag. When these fighters fought each other they left nothing behind in the ring; win or lose.

The majority of these fighters had to go to the hospital for observation after a fight, because most times they fought to near death. It was very rare that these guys showed up in the ring and gave less than 100 percent. It seemed the heavyweights back then were the real deal.

The heavyweights of this era seemed to have slipped into a coma. They do not compare to the fighters of the 70’s. They really don’t compare to the fighters of the 80’s and 90’s to be quite frank. The popular heavyweight names of today, you can count on one hand.

Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are the two most popular heavyweights of this era. They are the ones to beat, if you are going to be considered a good heavyweight of today. These two brothers have outstanding boxing records. Vitali is 40-2, 38 KO’s, and Wladimir is 54-3, 48 KO’s. Right now they both hold Heavyweight World Championship Titles.

Okay, let’s take out a moment and try “daydreaming” a little here. What if we could somehow turn back the clock and place the two Klitschkos back in the 1970s? How would these two brothers compete with the likes of Ali, Frazier, Foreman or Norton?

Muhammad Ali has always been viewed by many as the “best fighter who’s ever laced up gloves.” Place the Klitschkos in the ring with Ali in his prime during the early 70’s. Size would not make a difference. Ali’s speed and ring generalship would be too much for either Klitschko. No match!

Ali’s movement in the ring, his quick hands and feet would make both brothers look slow. His power punches landing would take its toll on the Klitschkos. Ali would knockout the younger Klitschko (Wladimir) and possibly Vitali as well. It would be too much punishment.

George Foreman was known for his power. He was the most feared of all the heavyweights. He could end a fighter’s career with one punch. This match-up would be different from Ali. Foreman was a fighter who cut off the ring. He forced most fighters into a brawl. He did not have speed, but when his punches landed it was “Goodnight Irene.”

I just don’t believe the Klitschkos would have been able to take Foreman’s punches. He knocked out former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer while in his forties, so imagine his punching power during his prime. He would have forced the champion brothers into submission. They don’t seem to be mentally strong.

Smokin’ Joe” Frazier was known for his powerful left hook. He was a fighter who fought all comers. He was not that big. He reminded me a lot like “Iron” Mike Tyson. Frazier had the heart of a lion when he stepped in the ring. He was always conditioned to go all fifteen rounds. If he landed his left hook clean on a fighter it was lights out.

Frazier was a devastating puncher with an iron chin. The Klitschkos would have looked like giants standing next to him, because he was about the same height as Tyson. Frazier had a way of bobbing and weaving his way inside on his opponents. He would go to the body and worked his way upstairs.

Could he have beaten both Klitschkos?

Wladimir would catch pure hell with Frazier during his prime. Once Frazier started to land that sneaky left hook on Wladimir, it wouldn’t take but one or two to take him out. Frazier would eat a few punches in return just to land that left hook.

Vitali on the other hand would be a smarter fighter and would tie up the bully (Frazier) every chance he’d get. This would give him a better chance at winning. But, if I had to put money on it, I would still place my bet on Frazier winning over both fighters. I don’t believe they share the same heart and drive.

It seems to me that any one of these former heavyweight champions of the 70’s, would be too much for the Klitschkos. Would the Klitschkos beat any of these fighters? It’s very possible. Could the Klitschkos fight for fifteen rounds with these bad boys of the 70s? That would be a mystery. I’ve seen them both gasping for air after five rounds of a fight.

One thing that has always been in question for me about the Klitschkos is their heart. They don’t seem to have that “true warrior spirit” that it’s takes to be known as a great heavyweight champion. It seemed Ali, Frazier, Foreman and some of the rest these fighters were willing to die in the ring, if it meant them losing.

Today, we don’t seem to have that. The Klitschkos have a chance to show something big in their next two fights. But will they? That’s yet to be seen. One way to look at it is… There has not been a fighter lately to test these guys, and until then, when we think of the heavyweights division, we think of The Klitschkos.

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