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Buster Mathis Tops Joe Frazier at Olympic Trials

May 20, 1964 - The good big man beat the good little man by fighting like a good little man while the little man was trying to fight like a good big man.

The good big man was Buster Mathis who, at 301 pounds, used speed and finesse to turn back aggressive Joe Frazier in the heavyweight final of the U.S. Olympic boxing trials today at the World’s Fairgrounds in New York.

Frazier, the 195-pound Middle Atlantic AAU champ from Philadelphia’s 23rd PAL Gym, tried to slow Mathis down with a concentrated body attack. The strategy cost Frazier dearly in the second round when referee Rollie Schwartz penalized him two points for hitting below the waistband.

“What could I do?” Frazier asked afterwards. “Mathis had his trunks pulled up almost to his heart. The shot I hit him with was fair, but he complained to the ref, and the ref penalized me even though he hadn’t warned me before that.”

The body attack had its obvious effect. Mathis wore a pained expression when he returned to his corner at the end of the second round. But in the final round, the 19-year-old giant from Grand Rapids, Mich., ran away with the fight.

“I’ve never seen such speed and finesse in a man his size,” observed boxing writer Lester Bromberg of the New York World Telegram & Sun. “He stands up well under a punch too. Frazier connected with a couple of belly shots that would have torn apart the average amateur heavyweight.”

The three judges voted for Mathis by scores of 60-59, 60-58, and 60-57. The decision was greeted by booing, mainly because Frazier had been the more aggressive fighter than his king-sized foe. He had scored often with a sweeping left hook, one of which, in the last round, relocated Frazier halfway across the ring.

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