Foreman is great, all right, but consider bad heavy field

November 08, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

As expected, a good percentage of the reaction to George Foreman's delivering a pair of straight right hands to the center of the face of a seemingly distracted Michael Moorer to win a heavyweight championship at age 45 the other night was both swift and wrong-headed.

No doubt it was a staggering accomplishment for a still-out-of-shape, middle-aged man who hadn't fought in 17 months and was unranked to dethrone a young champion. But cosmic? Hardly.

While it's out of place to call Foreman's victory an indictment of boxing, because an old, cheeseburger-chomping has-been has no business becoming a king of the game's marquee division, it's equally inane to ascribe supernatural properties to the happening.

The most dramatic victory in the history of sport? Come on. The best thing to happen to boxing in an age? Be serious. A form reversal beyond belief? Please.

If all this had happened many years ago when a fight fan knew the names of the seven champions from feather to heavyweight as well as he knew his kids' names, perhaps. But then, of course, a guy many years past his prime couldn't talk himself into the position Big George did strictly on the strength of his personality -- and the lack of saleable commodities among the heavies.

Moorer, meanwhile, probably had a whole lot more to do with what transpired than he's given "credit" for. It's a well-known fact Michael doesn't like boxing and it's readily apparent in his approach.

Go back to the fight in which he won his two-pronged (IBF, WBA) title. He beat a man, Evander Holyfield, who was in the throes of a heart attack from the fourth round on. He was ahead by a substantial margin when, in the late going, he appeared to lose interest completely.

If it hadn't been for trainer and tactician Teddy Atlas climbing into his face, goading him and berating him unmercifully, Moorer might have somehow lost to a fast-closing Holyfield, who showed effort previously thought to be impossible.

Again Saturday night in Las Vegas, Atlas was lecturing his man as though he had just walked in off the street for his first boxing lesson. Everyone over the age of reason probably knows that as a left-hander, Moorer has to move to his right, or away from the best power punch of a right-hander (Foreman).

The cornerman got so sick of instructing Moorer to do this after a while, he just let it go and moved on to something else. Often it was as if he was talking to a guy who had English as a second language.

Come the later rounds, Michael, who hadn't shown much movement since proceeding from his dressing room to the ring 45 minutes before, became completely inert. He was now standing directly in front of Foreman, a fact Atlas noted when he warned his fighter, "he's trying to sucker you for the right hand."

Big George had talked about his thunderous right hand, the one that had obliterated Joe Frazier and 41 other fighters in an earlier life, but only a couple of times had it showed up during career No. 2 (1987 to the present): Against Bert Cooper in 1989 and Gerry Cooney in 1990.

Oh, George can implode a building with a right hand if the situation is right but, mostly, even beaten fighters could escape the full force of the blow, so slow was Foreman in delivering it. It was not unlike Satchel Paige's old "hesitation" pitch.

Call it lucky or anything you want. But to fighters it's known as the "shot," a punch delivered at just the right time and in the proper manner to render them losers.

This was one of those el perfectos. It won a fight, a big fight. But with so many boxing organizations -- we're up to five right now -- and so many title holders since the heavyweight crown was divided up in the late '70s, Foreman's feat of regaining a crown at 45 will last only until some gent 46 comes along.

Which could be a lot sooner than anything thinks considering Larry Holmes is still around and he's 45 and giving no indication he regards it as a time to sign up for AARP.

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