Ho, ho, ho.
That familiar laugh you hear is not coming from St. Nick, but from Rev. George Foreman, who is celebrating Christmas 18 days early, stuffing his big red sack with $5 million for rapping a holiday package named Jimmy Ellis Saturday night in Reno, Nev.
Foreman remains a folk hero despite not venturing near a ring -- or, some say, a gym -- since losing his bid to unseat heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in April. After that one, for which he scaled 257, a robust Foreman vowed he would never again enter the ring out of shape and would hope to weigh 235 if he were to get a rematch with Holyfield.
Well, forget about the first one and don't hold your breath for the second. Word from Reno is Foreman weighs "around 260," and is hoping to come in "somewhere in the 250s" for his fight with Ellis, an unbeaten and unknown former football player.
"The guy's a white heavyweight, he's 16-0 and nobody's ever heard of him," Dan Duva said. "I think that tells you all you need to know about Ellis."
Duva said he's seen tapes of Ellis and he is so bad, "he doesn't even have a stance," let alone a chance. Of course, Foreman's motto is, "The badder the better."
"I hope he's everything they say he is," Foreman said by phone yesterday. "From what I can see, he's just a banger, nothing else. At least I hope he don't try nothing else."
Likewise, Foreman hasn't tried anything else since the Holyfield fight. Conventional wisdom said that Foreman, having clowned his way into an unsuccessful title shot, might now try prize fighting as a serious pursuit. As usual in boxing, conventional wisdom was dead wrong. Foreman is still bald, fat and jolly. He appears in a prefight commercial running through the streets stuffing his face with pizza and cheeseburgers. And people flock to see him, paying $1 a day to watch his "workouts." He donates the money to a charity.
"I've tried, but people just won't let me out of it," Foreman says of his Falstaffian image. "They ask me to take a picture, and then it's, 'Do me a favor, hold this cheeseburger.' Face it, people want to have fun, even in boxing."
Foreman should have plenty of fun with Ellis, who is as tailor-made for Foreman as a red flannel suit with white fur trim. As for a Holyfield rematch, however, one thing may stand in Foreman's way -- the $1.5 million settlement fee he won from Duva in the lawsuit Foreman brought when Holyfield opted to fight Mike Tyson after signing for a Foreman rematch in July. "It doesn't help Foreman's chances," Duva said. "Let's just say it hasn't been forgotten."
To which Foreman lets out a hearty ho, ho, ho. "That's the great thing about this country," he said. "When people disagree with one another, they don't throw knives or shoot guns. They go into a courtroom and let the lawyers settle it. I'm sure we'll be able to put that behind us."
And if Duva and Holyfield decide to hold a grudge, will Foreman go after any of what he calls "the young lions," Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer or Michael Moorer?
"I don't want to take no chances with them," Foreman said. "Them young guys are too hungry."
Spoken like a true expert.