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Gleaner 180 - Sunshine Showdown put Jamaica on boxing map

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Former champion Joe Frazier is floored by big George Foreman in the 'Sunshine Showdown' world heavyweight fight at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1973. - File

Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer

The Sunshine Show-down was the name chosen for one of the epic battles in boxing history, the clash between champion Smokin' Joe Frazier and challenger 'Big' George Foreman, for the world heavyweight title, in Kingston, Jamaica, on January 22, 1973.

That fight, which is still spoken about repeatedly in boxing circles all over the world, took place at Jamaica's National Stadium, and was promoted by the Institute of Sports in association with ace promoter Lucien Chen. The late Paul FitzRitson was a key person in making the fight happen in Jamaica after facing fierce competition and months of delicate negotiations.

It matched the then champion, 29-year-old Frazier, who entered the ring with a 29-0 record, against 24-year-old Foreman, a feared heavyweight, who from the moment the fight was arranged predicted that he would dethrone the champion.

It was, without doubt, a night to remember, and The Gleaner had a team of four reporters, led by then Sports Editor Raymond Sharpe and three photographers covering the fight. The build-up was terrific and there were daily problems, which miraculously were sorted out by the team led by FitzRitson and Chen. There was even a delay in Foreman's arrival, because he was not able to bring his dog with him to Jamaica. Both boxers celebrated their birthdays here, Foreman on January 10 and Frazier on January 12.

STRANGE OCCURRENCE

The two boxers had their training headquarters at the National Arena at different times, and one recalls that one of Frazier's sparring partners was Ken Norton. A strange thing happened one afternoon, however. Norton gave Frazier a hard time in the ring that day and raised eyebrows during and after the session. Not surprisingly, they never sparred again publicly after that.

On the night of the fight, a record crowd of 36,000 from all over the world turned out at the stadium, and saw a complete annihilation of the champion. The fight lasted less than two rounds, as Frazier hit the canvas six times before referee Arthur Mercante stepped in and stopped the one-sided affair.

Sports Editor Sharpe had this to say. "The world heavyweight boxing title changed hands at the National Stadium last night, as challenger George Foreman's near brutal savagery battered champion Joe Frazier, before referee Arthur Mercante stopped the annihilation at 1 minute and 35 seconds of the second round."

Giving another perspective, another member of the Gleaner team wrote as follows. "Number thirty proved unlucky for former World heavyweight champion Joe Frazier at the National Stadium last night. In the 30th fight of his career since he knocked out Woody Goss in the first round in 1965, the 29-year-old slaughterhouse butcher was decked six times by 24-year-old George Foreman before being declared the loser by technical knockout."