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World champ boxer Bob Foster dies at 76

Bob Foster, left, connects with the face of Muhammad Ali during a bout at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel in Stateline, Nev., in this Nov. 21, 1972 photo. It took Ali eight rounds and more than half-a-dozen knockdowns to finally stop Foster. Foster, an Albuquerque native who went on to work for the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department for 23 years, has died at age 77. (AP Photo)

Bob Foster, left, connects with the face of Muhammad Ali during a bout at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel in Stateline, Nev., in this Nov. 21, 1972 photo. It took Ali eight rounds and more than half-a-dozen knockdowns to finally stop Foster. Foster, an Albuquerque native who went on to work for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department for 23 years, has died at age 76. (AP Photo)

Albuquerque’s Bob Foster, arguably the greatest light-heavyweight boxing champion of all time, died Saturday morning.

No cause of death has been given, but the boxing Hall of Famer had been in failing health for some time.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Foster was 76, having been born in December 1938. He is incorrectly listed by boxrec.com has having been born in April 1938.

Ben Wilson, Foster’s manager and attorney, said the former world champion almost defied description as a person — as tough and self-reliant as his accomplishments in the ring would suggest.

“He was just a one-of-a-kind, no-holds-barred type of personality,” Wilson said. “Maybe quite of a bit of it isn’t really suitable for print. He wasn’t the most politically correct guy out there.”

Foster was born in Borger, Texas, but moved with his family to Albuquerque as a small child. He attended Albuquerque High before joining the United States Air Force.

After an amateur career that fell just short of an Olympics berth, Foster began his professional boxing career in Washington, D.C. But shortly after winning the world light-heavyweight title with a fourth-round knockout of Dick Tiger in May 1968, he returned to Albuquerque.

Foster fought for the last time in 1978. He finished with a professional record of 56-8-1, with 46 knockouts. All of his defeats came against opponents who weighed more than the 175-pound light-heavyweight limit.

Tall and lean at 6 feet, 3 inches, Foster’s physique enabled him to punch with tremendous leverage. He is widely considered one of the hardest punchers in the history of the sport.

Albuquerque boxer Bob Foster, photographed here on April 1, 1980, died at the age of 76. (Journal file)

Albuquerque boxer Bob Foster, photographed here on April 1, 1980, died at the age of 76. (Journal file)

After defeating Tiger for the title, he successfully defended the belt 15 times and never lost it in the ring. He gave up the title after fighting to a 15-round draw with Argentina’s Jorge Ahumada at the Pit in June 1974.

Arguments about who was greatest light heavyweight generally revolve around two men: Foster and fellow American Archie Moore. Their pro careers overlapped by only two years before Moore retired in 1963. Two light heavyweights from other eras, Billy Conn (1930s-40s) and Roy Jones Jr. (1990s, 2000s) might also get support.

Sadly, perhaps, Foster’s high-profile losses tended to get more national attention than his many victories. Venturing into the heavyweight division, he suffered knockout losses at the hands of Ernie Terrell, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, all much bigger men.

Foster’s knockouts were legendary. His stoppages of Tiger, Vicente Rondon and Mike Quarry were among his most dramatic.

“When I hit Mike Quarry, I thought he was dead,” Foster told newmexicoboxing.com in a 2002 interview.

While still fighting, Foster began a career in the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department. After his ring career ended, he remained involved with the sport as a trainer. Among his pupils were Albuquerque junior lightweight Tommy Cordova, among the city’s most popular boxers of the 1980s, and Foster’s son Tony, a heavyweight. Later, he worked with Jason Bray, a light heavyweight,  and Jason Cordova, a cruiserweight.

Foster made the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 with the first class of inductees, which included Ali, Frazier and Tiger. He was among the early inductees into the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame, now the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, in 1975.

Foster sometimes chafed under what he felt was a lack of appreciation in his hometown. Possessed of a rumbling bass voice and with a demeanor that could be intimidating, he never achieved the popularity — even at the height of his career — of the late Johnny Tapia.

Albuquerque freelance writer Jorge Hernandez likely was the last member of the media to speak with Foster, having done an extensive interview.

“(Foster) put Albuquerque on the map and laid the foundation for future champions from this city,” Hernandez told the Journal via social media. “Foster never believed the city of Albuquerque gave him the respect he deserved.

“Let’s hope it can finally do that and pay tribute now that our champion has fallen.”

 

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