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RSR Says Goodbye to 1970’s Heavyweight Contender Mac Foster

By Brian Wilbur

The date was April 1st, 1972 and the site, Nihon Budokon in Tokyo, Japan.  The challenge?  Defeating the greatest Heavyweight Champion of all time.  29-year-old power-punching contender Mac Foster was up for the challenge.  Though the Heavyweight Championship was not on the line for this battle, there was plenty at stake.  Both men only had one career loss on their resumes.  Muhammad Ali was on the comeback trail trying to get a return match against Joe Frazier.  Foster was looking for his first opportunity to fight for a title, which surely would come with a win over Ali. 

How did Foster get to that point?  The Ali fight is considered pinnacle of his career and the point at which he is most remembered by boxing fans. 

Foster had humble beginnings, growing up in a large family in Fresno, California.  Mac, a gifted high school athlete, turned professional in 1966 after finding success in the armed services boxing program during his time as a US Marine.  He demolished his early competition, not just winning but knocking out everyone in his path.  At one point his record was 24-0 with all 24 wins coming by way of knockout. 

His first step up against an established contender was in 1969 against Thad Spencer.  Eager for the challenge, Foster won with an emphatic 1st round KO, forcing the boxing world to take note of the up and coming prospect from Fresno. 

Shortly after the Spencer fight, former world title challenger Cleveland Williams fell victim to Foster’s vaunted power.  By this time Foster was an intimidating force in a golden age of heavyweight boxing.  His combination of size, power, and amateur pedigree was enough to earn him respect and buzz.   

Come 1970, Foster was poised for a shot at Champion Joe Frazier with one more win.  He faced off against fellow top ranked contender Jerry Quarry at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York.  After a compelling six round battle, Foster was unable to continue and he suffered the first loss off his career.

The former military man got right back in line against a top notch opponent to earn his ranking.  Mac took on seasoned veteran Zora Folley, rousing his hometown fans in Fresno with a one-sided, one-round beat down of Folley.  He backed his win up with three more wins, including a TKO over undefeated prospect Mike Boswell, to prove to the boxing world that he was still the same scary presence that he was before the Quarry fight. 

Opponents had trouble standing up to Foster’s incredible power.  All of his career wins came via knockout.  Even in sparring his knockout punch could not be contained.  Rumors abounded that Foster was able to knockout Sonny Liston and Ken Norton during heated sparring sessions. 

Muhammad Ali was one man who did not shy away from stiff challenges so he agreed to buck the trend and fight the often-avoided slugger.  The Ali vs. Foster match was a bit anti-climactic, but in true-life sports, the endings are not scripted or rehearsed.  Foster pressed forward trying to score, but like many others, he was unable to figure out the enigmatic defense of Ali, dropping a decision in a 15 round non-title fight. 

Although there is no shame in losing to Muhammad Ali, the loss in Tokyo just about signified the end of Foster’s serious career.  He partook in six more bouts, losing four, including a points loss to Joe Bugner as well as a puzzling split decision loss to journeyman Bob Stallings. 

Perhaps the rapid downward spiral was due in part to Mac’s inability to get back to his ideal fighting weight.  Foster weighed around 210 pounds in his prime.  In his last four fights he was approximately 10 to 20 pounds over his ideal fighting weight, a sign that a prizefighter is no longer in peak condition.  Foster wisely hung up his gloves for good in 1976.

Foster became a community leader in retirement coaching youth boxing programs.  Sadly, Mac “The Knife” Foster passed away earlier this week from congestive heart failure at the age of 68. 

Mac will be remembered for his amazing punch, jovial attitude, and inviting smile.  Ringside Report sounds the final 10 count for this fallen warrior. 

Mac Foster
Division: Heavyweight
Professional Record: 30-6, 30 KO’s

Date       Opponent                  Location                  Result     

1966-11-28 Jimmy Gilmore             Las Vegas, US             W KO   3

1967-01-05 Leroy Birmingham          Los Angeles, US           W KO   1

1967-02-06 Sam Wyatt                 Fresno, US                W KO   1
1967-03-14 L J Wheeler               Fresno, US                W TKO  6
1967-05-09 Lou Phillips              Fresno, US                W KO   3
1967-06-13 Lino Armenteros           Fresno, US                W KO   3
1967-08-29 Floyd Joyner              Fresno, US                W TKO  7
1967-10-11 Ray Junior Ellis          Fresno, US                W KO   2
1967-11-28 Roy Wallace               Fresno, US                W KO   7

1968-01-23 Hubert Hilton             Fresno, US                W TKO  5
1968-02-27 Steve Grant               Fresno, US                W TKO  2
1968-04-02 Sonny Moore               Fresno, US                W KO   2
1968-07-09 Curtis Bruce              Fresno, US                W TKO  3
1968-08-08 Tommy Burns               Seattle, US               W KO   1
1968-08-16 Tommy Fields              Reno, US                  W TKO  5
1968-11-27 Joe Hemphill              Las Vegas, US             W TKO  3

1969-01-21 Roger Rischer             Fresno, US                W KO   4
1969-05-20 Thad Spencer              Fresno, US                W KO   1
1969-08-19 Roger Russell             Fresno, US                W TKO  3
1969-09-13 Cleveland Williams        Fresno, US                W TKO  5
1969-11-18 Cleveland Williams        Houston, US               W KO   3
1969-12-16 Bob Felstein              Fresno, US                W KO   2

1970-03-24 Jimmy Rossette            Fresno, US                W KO   4
1970-04-09 Jack O’Halloran           Los Angeles, US           W KO   1
1970-06-17 Jerry Quarry              New York, US              L KO   6
1970-09-29 Zora Folley               Fresno, US                W KO   1

1971-03-25 Mike Boswell              Los Angeles, US           W TKO  4
1971-07-29 Billy Joiner              Los Angeles, US           W KO   5
1971-12-26 Giuseppe Ros              Zurich, CH                W KO   8

1972-04-01 Muhammad Ali              JP                        L UD  15

1973-04-11 Sam McGill                Chicago, US               W TKO  9
1973-05-03 Charles Williams          Chicago, US               W KO  10
1973-06-30 Bob Stallings             Chicago, US               L SD  10
1973-11-13 Joe Bugner                Wembley, UK               L PTS 10

1974-05-30 Henry Clark               Oakland, US               L UD  10

1976-02-26 Stan Ward                 San Jose, US              L UD  10

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