Lee Groves

10: Greatest light heavyweight title fights

8. September 26, 1972 — Empire Pool, Wembley, London — Bob Foster KO 14 Chris Finnegan


Setting the Scene: The 33-year-old Foster was still in magnificent form entering his 11th defense. Three months earlier he blasted Mike Quarry into unconsciousness with a terrifying left hook and two months before that he left WBA titleholder Vicente Rondon on his face in less than six minutes’ time.

The 28-year-old Finnegan was in the midst of a 10-0-1 streak, picking up the British and Commonwealth titles and then, after vacating them, the European belt. The southpaw had all the vocal support he needed from the Wembley crowd but against the formidable Foster they realized their man was facing an enormously difficult assignment.

What Happened: A respectful Finnegan kept his distance in the first two rounds as Foster targeted the Brit’s vulnerable brows with stiff jabs and rifle-shot rights. Finnegan excited the masses with occasional southpaw lefts but Foster stopped his momentum with single-shot howitzers. A rippling right in the third stopped a Finnegan rally in its tracks and another cross in round four opened a cut under the challenger’s left eye.

Finnegan turned the fight in rounds five through seven by blocking and slipping Foster’s blows to set up lefts to the belly and counters that snapped Foster’s head with surprising frequency. The Wembley crowd roared with every Finnegan success because they knew Foster had seldom been pushed this hard during his four-year reign. The drama continued to build in the ninth as they swapped heavy blows but Foster’s one-punch prowess instantly turned the fight in the 10th. A thunderous right sent Finnegan crashing back-first near his own corner, but instead of conceding Finnegan fought with gallant defiance.

A jauntily confident Foster taunted Finnegan in the 11th by dancing with hands at his side, but he also found time to drive in punishing jabs and crosses. A more serious Foster sought the decisive KO in the 13th, but Finnegan summoned a desperate burst that forced an instant retreat. A stinging Foster right in the 14th ignited another Finnegan surge, but all that ended with one pile-driving right to the chin that ended Finnegan’s fearless challenge. This classic encounter was named THE RING magazine’s 1972 Fight of the Year, one of only four light heavyweight fights to earn such a distinction.

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