"Joe is a curious guy," Eddie Futch, one of the champion's handlers, had said before the fight. "He never reveals his feelings. But that remark Foster made about his being dumb really got to him. He works hard, and he prides himself on being a craftsman. He's too serious about his work to take a remark like that lightly. I've seen it before. Tony Doyle did it. Quarry tried it. And when an opponent's mouth gets to Joe, they are in trouble. They had better run—run like thieves."
So Frazier brooded in silence before the fight. Curiously, Foster spent the same time exuding calmness and confidence. Even his manager, Lou Viscusi, was unnerved by Foster's tranquillity. "What kind of a fighter have I got?" asked Viscusi, who only recently became Foster's brain trust. "I wish I knew. All I know is that he's had bad luck with heavyweights. It's crazy. I didn't want this fight, but Foster insisted. That's why he got no guarantee. He could be fighting for nothing. And when I have doubts, I have to run to the fighter to be reassured. Crazy. Real crazy."
"No sweat," Foster kept telling Viscusi. "Frazier is easy to hit and I can punch."
"Yeah?" Viscusi would respond. "Then how come nobody has beat him? Don't sell me, I ain't buying no tickets to the fight. Just go out and fight. And if you make it back to the corner and listen to old Bill Gore [Foster's trainer], then maybe you've got a chance."
Foster made it back to his corner only once, and he had no chance. "Just take your time," Gore told him.
"Take my time?" Foster said later. "It's kind of hard to take your time when you look up and see that big thing coming at you."
And how Frazier came at him in that second round. No more fooling around proving he was a smart boxer. Wham! One hook fired over a Foster jab and Foster's 188 pounds were down and struggling. At nine, he made it to his feet, hardly in shape to walk, much less fight. But Referee Tom Brisco waved Frazier in for the kill.
"I didn't want to go," said Frazier. "I could see he was in serious trouble. But I'm not the ref, all I do is fight. The man said I should come back, and so I did."
A hook to the body and then one to the head were all that was needed. Foster fell like a stone and lay still. Durham rushed into the ring and cradled his head. "Let him go," said Referee Brisco. "Let the doctors take care of him."
"Shut up, you stupid s.o.b.," Durham snarled. "Why didn't you stop the fight? This man could be seriously hurt."