It turns out that George Foreman is the catalyst in Larry Holmes' decision to come out of retirement for a second time.
When Foreman signed to fight Evander Holyfield on April 19, Holmes, 41, saw a scenario unfolding in which he could again be a player in the heavyweight division.
"It's wide open; the fight game is wide open," Holmes said yesterday. "There's no real threat out there after Foreman knocks out Holyfield, which should take him three, four rounds.
"I think George Foreman is going to beat everybody. If Mike Tyson fights him, George will beat him, too. And that gives me an opportunity to get right back in the picture."
Holmes, a former heavyweight champion, said he had signed with L.B.A. Associates, a group based in Newport Beach, Calif., and intended to follow Foreman's lead by fighting as often as possible.
His first match is scheduled for April 7 in Hollywood, Fla., against Tim "Doc" Anderson.
"If I can, I want to fight again in April and twice in May," Holmes said. "I want to be in the midst of things to come [by] the end of the year."
Bob Rey, a spokesman for L.B.A., said his group had a commitment of at least four fights from Holmes.
"And already we've got a slew of offers that we're examining," Rey said.
Holmes said he first thought of returning to the ring in February 1990, when James "Buster" Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson and became the heavyweight champion.
"I was not quite sure about it then," Holmes said. "But after long consideration -- watching fights and analyzing them -- I felt I could do all right."
Holmes' first comeback was squelched by Tyson, who knocked him out in four rounds in January 1988, and sent him back to Easton, Pa., to oversee his business holdings.
"I've still got the Larry Holmes Commodore Inn in Phillipsburg, N.J., and in Easton I've got a bar, half a dozen rental apartments, a house I rent out and an office building on Larry Holmes Drive that is 85 percent capacity. I've leased one floor to the federal courthouse, another to a bank. Is money why I'm coming back? Money always plays a part. But that's not my main goal."
It is no secret that Bob Arum, who has been promoting Foreman, wants to match Foreman against Ray Mercer in July, assuming that Foreman beats Holyfield for the heavyweight title on April 19. Arum has said as much.
What Arum isn't talking about is what foreign site he has in mind when he says the fight will take place outside the country. But the word is that Arum has an offer from Japan that would guarantee Foreman $15 million and Mercer (the World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion) $3 million.
Foreman is guaranteed $12.5 million for fighting Holyfield, who is guaranteed $20 million.
Even if Foreman loses to Holyfield, he is not without prospects. Seth Abraham, the executive who oversees the fight agendas of Home Box Office and TVKO, wants to put Foreman in the commentator's seat that Sugar Ray Leonard occupied during HBO boxing telecasts.
"I believe he could be boxing's version of John Madden," Abraham said. Madden, a former coach in the NFL who is now a football analyst on CBS, is noted for his regular-guy style.
Finally, it now appears that the controversy about Foreman's age can be put to rest. Bert Sugar, the editor and publisher of Boxing Illustrated, recently had the registrar's office in Travis County, Texas, send him a photostat of Foreman's birth certificate.
That document shows George Edward Foreman, son of J.D. and Nancy Foreman, was born in Marshall, Texas, on Jan. 10, 1949, as Foreman has been saying all along.
When the 42-year-old Foreman started his comeback in March 1987, the Ring Record Book had his birth date as Jan. 22, 1948. That made Foreman a year older than he said he was, as well as the answer to a trivia question that Sugar himself used to pose, erroneously it turned out, on occasion. The question: What champion won the heavyweight title on his birthday?