THE fight game may be dying, which is a good thing for the...

salmagundi

November 14, 1994

THE fight game may be dying, which is a good thing for the damage it does, but not before creating one more legend that will live forever.

Not the one about the Kid who was better at violin but needed the money. Not the one about the last white hope. Not the one about the thug from the slums battering his way to responsibility.

No, this is the one about the middle-aged fat guy, of an age when respectable men are running for president, whose dishonor was self-inflicted in the ring two decades ago, who doesn't need the money because he makes bundles from TV commercials, who fights for the Lord or at any rate to support the church where he preaches to the poor.

It's the one about the guy so out of shape that one of the three world organizations regulating the sport refused to sanction his fight with The Champ, and only relented when he sued for the right to be slaughtered for $1.5 million.

There George Foreman was at 45, retired from 1977 to 1987, out of action the past 17 months, going up against a man of 26, who had won all 35 of his professional fights. From the start of the spectacle in a gambling emporium in Las Vegas, Michael Moorer was the more imposing fighter. What Mr. Foreman needed to do was survive 10 rounds, till the dancing champion slowed and presented a target.

And so he did. It was that powerful right, the crusher, the one Mr. Foreman failed to land 20 years ago in Zaire when a fading Muhammad Ali humiliated him. This time the fat old big-mouth landed it, in the 10th round.

Mr. Moorer, an intelligent man who does not like to fight but does it extremely well, was knocked batty. Mr. Foreman won the world heavyweight title from two of the three world organizations that award it, at age 45, the oldest title winner ever. Mr. Moorer's consolation will be about $7 million, less what his manager and Uncle Sam take off the top.

Well there's at least one more fight in the old man now. Maybe, just maybe, against the real champ, Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who will come charging out of prison in Indiana next year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Foreman is the wish fulfillment of every little boy in America who is 45 and overweight and over the hill. Every little boy who could still do it if he just got one more chance. . .

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