LAS VEGAS -- It was the least likely of results -- Tommy Morrison by decision over George Foreman in a fight that was supposed to match two of boxing's hardest punchers.
It was an ugly, messy, mauling affair, highlighted by just a handful of exchanges and few good punches. Incredibly, neither man could hurt the other last night. At least Foreman, being fat and 44, had an excuse. Morrison, prancing around the ring to escape Foreman's pressure and punching power, won the fight on the cards but lost the crowd in the Thomas & Mack Center, who booed his every evasive move and cheered even Foreman's misses.
And referee Mills Lane, objected to by the Foreman camp all week, justified its paranoia by docking Foreman a point for a low blow in Round 10 and stopping the action to re-tape Foreman's gloves when he seemed to have Morrison wobbly in the fight's final minute.
It was an unthinkable way for Foreman's boxing career to end, which it probably did, to use Foreman's favorite word of the week, with the former champion shambling after a boy who darted in and out, popping light punches and looking for refuge.
"I had great days in boxing; I'm proud of what I've done," said Foreman (72-4). "The judges have spoken. God bless boxing. I fought for the title twice, that was my goal. Now's the time to raise the horde of children."
The official cards were ludicrously one-sided. Patricia Jarman and Dalby Shirley had Morrison ahead, 117-110, and Jerry Roth had it 118-109. Newsday had Foreman, the aggressor throughout the bout and lander of all the most powerful punches, a 115-113 winner.
"I feel awesome," said Morrison (37-1). "The plan was not to let Foreman get set, that's why we concentrated on the jab. I was a little tired early on, but the extra work in the gym paid off."
Incredibly, Foreman spent every rest period -- as he has in all 29 fights of his second career -- standing in his corner, reclining casually against the ropes. Morrison, however, huffed and puffed his way back, having spent most of every round skittering away from Foreman. The difference in the fight was the 20-year age difference, which kept Foreman a beat away from landing the big punch all night.
The closest anyone came to going down was when Foreman doubled over Morrison with a low left hook in the eighth round. He appeared to be trying to help Morrison stay up -- perhaps so he could hit him again -- but Lane immediately waved Foreman to a neutral corner and gave Morrison a rest period, of which he took 57 seconds. But it was not until the 10th-round low blow that Lane deducted a point.
All week, Foreman has been coyly saying this "probably" would be his last fight, although in an interview with Newsday, he said he "probably" would defend the WBO title once or twice before "really" retiring. And promoter Bob Arum is known to have favored a Foreman-Alex Garcia bout, perhaps at the Astrodome, as his first defense.
When Foreman wasn't clowning for the fans who came in by the hundreds to watch his daily "training" sessions -- mostly bogus sparring sandwiched in between wisecracks -- he was practicing conspicuous consumption by using some of the $7 million guaranteed purse for last night's bout. He just purchased TC house with a 20-car garage in Humble, Texas, and two days ago filled one of those spaces when he took delivery of a brand-new Dodge Viper.
But sources say it had not been all fun and games for Foreman, who was holding early-morning training sessions behind closed doors at a local gym. His weight (256 pounds) was the lowest since he fought Gerry Cooney in January 1990.
Morrison's training also was a mystery, since he opened his workouts just once during his week in Las Vegas to fulfill a contractual commitment to the promoters. He appeared finely trained at 226, but yesterday afternoon his co-manager, Bill Cayton, expressed reservations about his fighter's confidence.
"After he beats Foreman, his confidence will get a tremendous boost," Cayton said. "I think he has it, but this fight is a very big hurdle for him."
The decision gave Morrison the lightly regarded WBO heavyweight title, the same crown Morrison had fought Ray Mercer for when he suffered his only loss in a devastating fifth-round knockout 18 months ago.
The victory set up a possible fight between Morrison and WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who watched from ringside along with WBA and IBF champion Riddick Bowe.