Bob Foster, born December 15, 1938, is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico whom many boxing critics consider to be one of the greatest Light Heavyweight world champions in history. He was the owner of very long arms, a thin frame, and was the tallest Light Heavyweight champion in history, physical attributes which established him as a long standing champion.
Foster started his professional career on the night of March 27, 1961, against Duke Williams, in Washington D.C., winning by a knockout in two rounds. The first 12 bouts of his career were spent fighting along the East Coast, and Canada. In his tenth bout, he made his first of many forays into the Heavyweight division, and suffered his first loss, at the hands of Doug Jones, by a knockout in the 8th round.
After two more wins, he went to Lima, Peru, where he lost a very controversial “home town” decision in 10 rounds to South American fighter Mauro Mina. Three more fights back in the U.S. resulted in quick knockouts for Foster, and then, in 1964, he made his second attempt at the Heavyweight division, being knocked out in the seventh by future world Heavyweight champion, Ernie Terrell. He finished 1964 by posting three more knockout wins against Light Heavyweights—two of them on the same night. On December 11, Foster knocked out Don Quinn in the 1st round, then stepped into the ring minutes later and faced former world title challenger Henry Hank. He beat Hank with a 10th round knockout to bring his career record to 17-3.
In 1965, Foster had five fights, winning four and losing one. He beat Henry Hank again, by a decision in 12 rounds, and lost a 10 round decision to top-10 Heavyweight contender Zora Folley. By 1967, Foster was a ranked Light Heavyweight, and he won all seven bouts that year—6 by knockout. After defeating Sonny Moore on December 5, Foster was the number one ranked contender in the Light Heavyweight division.
Foster got his chance at the world title belt on May 24, 1968, when he fought champion Dick Tiger in front of 12,000 fans at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Foster won the championship with a stunning 4th round knockout, beginning his 6 year reign as champion. After winning the title, Foster beat Heavyweight Charlie Polite with a 3rd round knockout, and closed out the year with two more knockouts in defense of his Light Heavyweight crown, and was named “Fighter of the Year” for 1968.
In 1969, he began the year by rising off the canvas after an early knock down by Frank DePaula, to knock out DePaula in the same 1st round. It was believed to be the first time a boxer won a world title fight in the first round after being knocked down in the same round. In May, Foster fought top 10 contender Andy Kendall, winning by a brutal knockout in the 4th round to retain his world championship title. He closed the year with 2 more knockout wins.
Foster won 4 more bouts in 1970 before fighting Smokin’ Joe Frazier on November 18 for the world Heavyweight championship in Detroit. Foster gave up over 20 pounds to Smokin’ Joe, who ko’d Foster in the 2nd round.
In the spring of 1971, the World Boxing Association stripped Foster of their version of the Light Heavyweight championship, and gave the title to Venezuelan fighter Vicente Rondon. While Foster waited for his chance to fight Rondon, he scored 4 more knockouts in 1971, including a victory over top 10 contender Brian Kelly in Oklahoma City.
The much anticipated unification bout between Foster and Rondon took place in Miami, Florida on April 7, 1972. Although Rondon had been calling himself “champion” leading up to the fight, Foster was eager to settle things in the ring. At the start of the fight, Rondon was described as a “frightened-looking fighter” who spent the first round “in full flight”. Boxing Illustrated said that Rondon might have survived into the third round “had the ring been 40 feet, instead of 20.” Instead, Foster tracked Rondon down, and crushed him with a double-left hook in the 2nd, fracturing his skull and knocking him out for over 5 minutes.
After Rondon, Foster continued his unprecedented domination of the Light Heavyweight division with a shattering knockout of top 10 contender Mike Quarry in the last second of the 4th round. Foster then traveled to London to face recent Olympic champion Chris Finnegan. He knocked out Finnegan in the 14th round, in a fight that The Ring Magazine named “The Fight of the Year”.
Having dispensed with the entire Light Heavyweight division, Foster once again climbed into the Heavyweight division, this time to challenge Muhammad Ali for the NABF title on November 21, 1972. In this fight, Foster gave up over 30 pounds to Ali, and became the first fighter to ever cut Ali during a fight. Foster survived 7 knock downs, before being knocked down for good in the 8th round. After the fight, Ali called Foster one of the greatest fighters he has ever faced, and praised Foster’s left jab.
In 1973 Foster had two bouts, both with the South African fighter Pierre Fourie. The first fight took place in Foster’s home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico with Foster retaining his Light Heavyweight in a 15 round decision. Their second fight had a distinct social impact because it was fought in South Africa under the rules of Apartheid, with Foster being black, and Fourie being white. Foster became a hero to black South Africans by beating Fourie in the first fight, and their rematch on December 1, 1973 in Johannesburg was the first fight matching a black fighter against a white fighter after Apartheid. Foster cemented his heroic status by defeating Fourie again with another 15 round decision.
Foster’s last title defense came in 1974 when he fought to a 15 round draw against Jorge Ahumada in Albuquerque. Foster retired after that fight, leaving the world Light Heavyweight championship vacant. He went on to fight 7 more fights between 1975—1978, and retired from boxing for good in 1978 with a career record of 56-8-1.
After his boxing career, Foster served as a deputy sheriff with Bernalillo County, New Mexico, where he continues to work in semi-retirement. He also stays active in the boxing community and continues to train professional boxers in Albuquerque. Foster was elected into the inaugural class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.