Robert Wayne Foster was born in Borger, TX, Dec. 15, 1938. He grew up in Albuquerque and played football at Albquerque High School. After Air Force service, he boxed as an amateur before turning pro in 1961.
After Bob Foster defeated Hal Carroll by a knockout in four rounds to defend his crown, the WBA stripped him of the title, but he was still recognized by the WBC as a champion. Foster became enraged at the WBA, which proceeded to have Vicente Rondon of Venezuela and Jimmy Dupree fight for the world title. Rondon won, becoming the second Latin American world light-heavyweight champion (after Jose Torres), and Foster set his eyes on him. Foster went on defending his WBC title, and he defeated challengers Ray Anderson, Tommy Hicks, and Brian Kelly. Of those three, it was Anderson who was the only one to last the 15 round distance with Foster.
Standing 6-foot-3, the big-punching Foster had a record of 56 wins, eight losses and one draw, with 46 knockouts. He won the light heavyweight title in 1968 when he stopped Dick Tiger in the fourth round of a fight at Madison Square Garden. It was the only time Tiger was knocked out in his career.
Two years later, Foster moved up to heavyweight to challenge Frazier for the title. The fight was a mismatch, with Frazier stopping Foster at 49 seconds of the second round.
Foster regained his 175-pound title in his next fight, but in 1972, he fought again as a heavyweight, meeting Ali at a Lake Tahoe casino. Again Foster was overmatched, with Ali knocking him down seven times before the fight was stopped in the eighth round.
Foster made 14 successful title defenses before retiring as champion in 1974. He returned a year later and retired for good in 1978 after being knocked out in his last two fights. In 1994, ring Magazine named him the third-greatest light heavyweight ever.
Foster was the Boxing Writers Association of America's fighter of the year in 1968, edging Frazier in a close vote. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame's first class in 1990.
In December 1973, Foster drew international headlines when he defended his title against Pierre-Fourie, a South African, in what was widely promoted as the first interracial professional boxing match in apartheid-era South Africa. Foster had successfully battled Fourie in Albuquerque but agreed to a rematch.
The American was greeted by throngs of black supporters at the airport in Johannesburg and went on to outpoint his opponent.
But many blacks were reportedly infuriated that Foster did not use the victory to address the injustice of the apartheid system.
"I'm here for a fight," he said at the time. "I'm here to keep my title. I'm not here for politics. You get too involved with politics, you can forget what you came for."
He kept his title after a draw against Jorge Ahumada of Argentina in 1974 and retired. While still boxing, Foster began his career with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department.