on Sat 5-Jul-2008:
I've always looked at this as being one of the more plausible and more interesting "what if" exercises in boxing history. When George Foreman became only the third man to ever stop tough George Chuvalo in 1970, it was by a closer margin than I think many realize. Foreman hurt Chuvalo, but didn't have him in the same kind of trouble that Joe Frazier did (Frazier crushed Chuvalo's eye socket; against Foreman, Chuvalo was merely staggered). In the video, Chuvalo's legs look good, he was covered up and weathering the storm, taking very few of the bombs Foreman was pourng on him in an effort to finish him. His head was clear enough when the fight was stopped to famously declare to the referee "What are you, nuts?"
So let's assume that Chuvalo did a little something to prevent the referee from stopping the fight - threw a few punches back, moved along the ropes more, or best of all spun out. Foreman has since admitted he completely punched himself out on Chuvalo. Foreman might have been stronger and hit harder than Chuvalo, but Chuvalo unquestionably had the bigger gas tank and the tougher will. If the just-as-plodding Foreman was left standing there completely spent, Chuvalo would have knocked his ass to the ground. It would have been an early, Chuvalo-style rope-a-dope. Chuvalo TKO5 Foreman.
So now what happens? George Foreman was a 21-0 comer at the time; going into his later bout with Frazier, the only big name under his belt was Chuvalo. If the gatekeeper Chuvalo stopped Foreman, he would have been "exposed" and forced Foreman back to the drawing board. Foreman would be back, but there would have been no fight with Frazier in Jamaica, and no "down goes Frazier!" Frazier and Muhammad Ali were in stalled negotiations for a rematch, and with no Foreman upset that would have taken place. So Frazier vs. Ali II would have been for the title, but more important Frazier would not be coming off the physical trauma of being dribbled like a basketball in Jamaica. Who knows what might have happened then?
Then what happens with Chuvalo? The irony is that Chuvalo beating Foreman would have not done as much for Chuvalo's career as the reverse did for Foreman. It would be a good win, similar to what beating Mac Foster did for Jerry Quarry, and also it was now Chuvalo's second big win in a row (he stopped Quarry the previous year); enough to earn a big fight, but not a rematch with champion Frazier. So who would be out there?
Having been lucky to stop Jerry Quarry the year before, I doubt Chuvalo would seek a dangerous rematch with him. Ken Norton was still a non-entity in 1970/71; Ali was seeking out Frazier (another reason why a rematch with Frazier was out of the question).
Chuvalo had two narrow losses behind him crying for revenge: former two-time champ Floyd Patterson and Argentine Oscar Bonavena, and both men were still active in 1970 and 1971. Bonavena had only recently lost to Ali at the end of 1970. Patterson spent 1971 fighting journeymen and angling for another big fight. What would have happened then?
I think Patterson had lost far more than Chuvalo by 1971. They first fought in 1965 in a Fight of the Year, with Patterson winning a clean-but-close decision. Chuvalo UD12 Patterson. Bonavena is a harder call - that fight was close, with the rough and tumble Bonavena boxing to a narrow MD win. However, that was in 1966; by 1971 he had lost twice to Frazier, once to Jimmy Ellis, and was coming off a TKO at the hand of Ali. In 1972, Patterson would outbox him. Chuvalo is on a winning streak and confident, and I think he could edge the Argentine in a reversed MD win.
And so then Chuvalo would have done enough to have earned a rematch with Frazier, possibly in 1972, where "Smokin'" Joe would stop him again.
You can see how a little change in tactics by Chuvalo, or a little more patience by Arthur Mercante could have changed the entire history of heavyweight boxing...