Foreman, Savarese Both Come Out Ahead

48-year-old's Split Decision Legitimizes Challenger, Too

April 28, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- George Foreman's split-decision victory over dogged Lou Savarese at the Convention Center on Saturday night was one of those rare matches in which both fighters emerged as winners.

As co-promoter Dino Duva of Main Events Inc. noted, "Foreman, at 48, proved he is still a force in the heavyweight division. He can fight anybody. We'd love to match him against Andrew Golota or David Tua."

A more likely scenario for Foreman is a June match in Houston against the likes of youthful slugger Shannon Briggs or Nigeria's David Izonritei.

And Savarese, who was 36-0 but relatively unknown before Saturday's match, only enhanced his reputation as a legitimate contender with his gutty 12-round stand against the best knockout artist in heavyweight history.

"Savarese answered a lot of big questions in this fight," adviser Cedric Kushner said. "I was extremely impressed by his big heart, sturdy chin and tremendous stamina. He's for real."

The final punch count showed Savarese, 31, a one-time sparring partner for Foreman, threw more punches (870-540) and connected more often (296-223).

A Bronx, N.Y., native, Savarese also was credited with landing more power punches (229-168).

But this final statistic was open to serious debate. Foreman consistently rocked his younger rival with clubbing rights and sliced open Savarese's left eye in the third round, a wound that bled repeatedly in the later rounds.

Conversely, Savarese's heaviest blows seemed to have as much effect on the 253-pound Foreman as a flea on an elephant's back.

It was Savarese's indomitable will in refusing to submit to Foreman's battering that won the respect of the crowd of 7,102.

"I can take a punch," he said proudly. "I've only been knocked down once in my pro career. George stung me, but he didn't hurt me."

Another spectator impressed by Savarese's effort was Foreman's younger brother, Roy, a camp consultant. "I've known Lou since he was 17 and living and training in Houston," Roy Foreman said. "He was an outstanding amateur. I traveled with him to tournaments all around the world.

"That's why it was so strange seeing him 14 years later fighting George and earning half a million dollars. Lou fought his heart out and proved how tough he is. But he was in there with a master."

But for the third straight time, Foreman (76-4, 68 KOs) had to settle for a decision. He went 12 rounds in his fights with Germany's Axel Schulz and obscure Crawford Grimsley, perhaps an indication his power is waning.

Foreman was genuinely surprised to see Savarese still standing after the final bell.

"I hit him with lead rights and lefts that should have dropped anyone," he said. "I don't understand what kept him on his feet."

The fight originally was billed as a match for Foreman's obscure World Boxing Union belt. But when Foreman opted to use the three New Jersey judges instead of WBU-appointed officials, the WBU withdrew its sanction.

Foreman, who received $4.5 million for his latest HBO appearance, undoubtedly could earn three times the amount if matched against the winner of the Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson rematch, tentatively set for June 28.

Foreman lost a close fight to Holyfield six years ago, forcing Holyfield to hold repeatedly to survive the final rounds.

Tyson looked like damaged goods in being stopped by Holyfield last November. And his hellbent offensive style would be relished by Foreman, who is too stubborn to go chasing after his prey in his advanced years.

Pub Date: 4/28/97

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