Foreman stirs memories of Bobby Riggs

The Inside Stuff

April 18, 1991|By Bill Tanton

This silly George Foreman-Evander Holyfield fight tomorrow night reminds me of Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King in tennis two decades ago.

Foreman, fat and 43, is nearly as unlikely an opponent for a legitimate fighter as was con man Riggs in his late 50s for Billie Jean, at that time the best of the women.

Riggs-King caught on in a big way, packing 50,000 into the Astrodome. The prime time athlete, King, won.

Now Foreman-Holyfield promises to set an all-time record gross for pay-per-view TV. Just as over-the-hill male chauvinists rallied behind Riggs, the portly and middle-aged are now waiting to see if George, training on cheeseburgers, can beat Holyfield.

My guess: Foreman, who can't move, won't answer the bell for the third round.

My hope: that the guy doesn't get hurt. Financially, Foreman can't be hurt. He'll get $12.5 million.

Does Foreman have a chance? Mack Lewis, who has been training fighters in his East Baltimore gym since the days of Joe Louis, makes a valid point:

"Foreman can still hit. If George catches him, it's all over."

Al Flora, former fighter, longtime local promoter, now a member of the State Athletic Commission, puts it this way:

"Foreman has a shot up to the fifth or sixth round. After that, forget it."

* Funny thing about basketball coach Digger Phelps' departure from Notre Dame is that people are saying he paid too much attention to academics.

That's incredible when every university president is striving to improve graduation rates of his school's athletes. In 20 years at South Bend, Phelps graduated 100 percent of his players.

When Lefty Driesell was forced out at Maryland after Len Bias' cocaine death, what finished Lefty was that so many of his players -- including Bias -- were not making satisfactory academic progress.

At the time, Dick Vitale screamed (that's redundant): "Lefty won but the president is not pleased with the academics. If it was the reverse and Lefty was fired for not winning, and if Lefty could have said to the president, 'But my players graduated,' the president would have said, 'We didn't hire you for that.' "

That's what happened at Notre Dame. Digger's team went 12-20 this year, 28-33 over the last two. Phelps made the Final Four only once.

Baltimore kids who attend Notre Dame will tell you Phelps is not popular with the students. They don't like his style or his record. They do like Lou Holtz, the football coach.

A college basketball coach was telling me last week about an opening at an Ivy League school. I mentioned to Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan, who's been in the business 38 years, that it would be enjoyable to coach at an Ivy school. Said Phelan: "If you don't win there they'll fire you, too." So will Notre Dame.

* Never can I remember advising anyone not to go to a game, but that may be the best advice for Saturday's traditional Johns Hopkins-Maryland lacrosse game at College Park.

Byrd Stadium, the 45,000-seat football stadium, is being renovated so the game will be played at Denton Field, a soccer and sometime lacrosse field near the home of the university president. Denton Field has 3,000 temporary seats. When they're filled, the crowd must turn to a bank that holds 300.

Two years ago when Hopkins played Maryland at Byrd the game drew 16,759. Four years ago the crowd was 19,850. I can't imagine where they're going to put people Saturday. Because Denton Field has no phone lines, the Hopkins-Maryland game cannot be broadcast. Instead, WITH-AM 1230 will carry the Loyola at UMBC game at 1 o'clock.

* Change: Coach Jody Martin reports that the club lacrosse game between his Chesapeake team and Mount Washington this weekend has been switched to 2 p.m. Sunday at Speer Field. That's the old University of Baltimore field on Rogers Avenue. The change was made to accommodate the several club players who will be busy coaching college teams Saturday, the original date.

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