Well-fed Foreman is eating up Holyfield on talk circuit

January 31, 1991|By Dan Shaughnessy | Dan Shaughnessy,Boston Globe

It must be the early '70s. Students are protesting the war, George McGovern is thinking about running for president, movie fans are lining up for "The Godfather" and George Foreman is training for the heavyweight championship of the world.

Let's turn out the lights, watch the lava lamp and listen to the Rolling Stones' latest album. Maybe we'll switch on the tube and see Cher or Raquel Welch in a flimsy outfit, or maybe we'll see heavyweight contender George Foreman plugging his upcoming bout.

It only seems like the '70s, that decadent decade that left us with "Have a nice day." In fact, it is 1991 and we are happy to report that George Foreman looks nothing like he looked in the '70s.

Fitness and nostalgia are two of the rages of this age, but Foreman is one of the few celebrities who has been able to remind us of the old days without making us feel guilty about what's happened to our own bodies since the early '70s. This is a column about George Foreman, and without guilt you may eat a danish while you read. If you feel like it, go for a slice of pizza.

It's OK to sit on the couch and enjoy a bowl of ice cream when you're swallowing Foreman's gospel of glut. Foreman is back on top -- almost -- and he doesn't look exactly the way he looked 20 years ago. He doesn't make the rest of us feel weak, inferior and slovenly.

George is bald. George is chubby. George is 42 years old, maybe older. George likes food; even some of the food that's bad for us. But it's OK, because George is back, and Tuesday he came to Boston with heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield to kick off a PR campaign for their April 19 championship bout in Atlantic City, N.J. It's being touted as "The Battle of the Ages!" An alternative tag might be "Lean Cuisine Meets Dunkin' Donuts."

Holyfield is the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champ, and he'll no doubt be a favorite in this bout, but Tuesday he didn't have a chance. George Foreman is going to win all the PR battles before April 19.

Holyfield is something we can never be. He is 210 pounds of sculpted stone. He has a perfect body and, we are told, perfect conditioning habits. He is a perfect 27 years old with an entourage of body-beautiful coaches.

"This guy has a strength coach, a dance coach, a stretching coach," said George. "There must be something wrong with him if he can't dance. All he has to do is watch M.C. Hammer. My dance coach is MTV, and my stretching coach is my sofa. That's where I stretch out.

"My strength coach is my wife. She decides what kind of chain to put on the refrigerator -- something strong enough to keep me from opening it."

That's only the tip of the Klondike Bar, sports fans. George has been waiting for this moment for 14 years and he's got a million of 'em.

"They stole my title from me in Africa," said Foreman. "But now I'm back and I'm happy to announce this in the beautiful city of Larry Bird, Mass. I'm going to shock the whole world. Eighteen years ago I had a son and I was getting ready to fight Joe Frazier. They said there was no way I could win. Now here it is 18 years later and I just had another baby [George IV -- all of his sons are named George], and would you believe guys are saying it again?

"I don't want no eight-round decision. I want to knock this man out in two rounds."

Holyfield is listed at 205 pounds. Foreman is listed at 250. They were asked what they now weigh. Holyfield said 210. Foreman said, "One of my legs weighs 210."

Later, he added, "The scales got nothing to do with the way I feel about myself. I jump on and if I don't see what I like, I stay away for a while. Sometimes they say things I don't want 'em to say."

Tuesday's news conference began a 10-city tour. The promoters apologized to the boxers for dragging them around the country, but George said, "I'd prefer 25 cities. At home, I got to pay for my food. I think we should do more cities.

"If they made this a pie-throwing contest, I'd win. If they want me to be champ forever, make it a pie-eating contest."

He said he trains harder than any fighter. He said if you train hard, you can eat whatever you want. Then he flexed his right bicep for the cameras and said, "Look at that muscle. I can lift any plate in the world."

When he was young, Foreman was a brute with a steely stare. There was no fat on his body and no PR babble on his tongue. Today he is older, heavier and wiser. He knows how to work the crowd.

"I'm a pitchman myself," he said. "I'm out here trying to sell tickets. I'm trying to sell to make this the greatest fight of all time. For 10 years, I never even shadow-boxed, but then I raised my hands and my fists started to close and a mysterious power filled me with punching power again."

He lowered his arms, took a deep breath and said, "Enough?"


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