By George, champ is indeed a wonder


From the land of make-believe, including Cinderella and discovering a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, steps #F George Foreman, who defied all logic, reason, betting odds and the aging process to become heavyweight champion of the world. Supposedly -- as the truism reminds -- there's nothing new under the sun . . . until boxing produces its next chapter of the bizarre and incredulous.

Forget that George Foreman exemplifies in a physical way what it means to be "fat and over 40" because his stiff right hand, like an old violin, still can play a rendition of mesmerizing chin music.

Actually, he's 45, which is not the age for a man to be spending his time in a roped-in square dealing and accepting punishment from a junior adversary, a kid of 27 who won all 35 of his previous bouts, including 30 by knockout.

The Foreman victory over Michael Moorer is the all-time upset in heavyweight championship history, even surpassing Braddock over Baer, Clay stopping Liston and Douglas taking out Tyson. It would be easy to classify the Foreman win as a freak happenstance, except such a contention isn't supported by fact.

For almost 10 rounds, Foreman was there in front of Moorer accepting the beating that was expected and falling behind decisively on all scorecards. Then Foreman threw what appeared to be a volley of routine punches. The finishing blow, a stiff but not awesome-appearing right hand, touched a vulnerable nerve and Moorer dropped to the floor as if he had fallen through an elevator shaft.

That Foreman, a man of 45 summers, could summon such strength testifies to patience, fortitude and certainly his resolve. Stop to consider that boxers half his age can't demonstrate any such staying power. Then, when opportunity presented itself, at 2:03 of the 10th round, Foreman rocked his foe to sleep.

After Moorer was counted out, the preacher-man Foreman quickly knelt in the ring and explained later, "I thanked Jesus."

It was a spectacular ending to a comeback journey he began in 1987, after being away for 10 years from one of the toughest of all pursuits, making a living with your fists.

When he set off on the senior citizen phase of his career, it was conceded George wasn't so much interested in accomplishment he was in creating a few paydays. Maybe the inquisitive would be induced for nostalgia's sake to buy a ticket to see a former champion in slow motion.

Foreman weighed close to 300 pounds, talked in a self-deprecating manner of how it felt to resemble an air balloon, and got on with the show. Maybe he couldn't dance but there was no doubting the punching power.

Now, fading away to a shadow of his old self, at a mere 250, he says his mother told him to hurry on home after the successful title fight because she was deeply worried about his being too thin.

That Foreman could take so many punches from his young rival before putting him away is bothersome. The cumulative result is he's risking his health and inviting serious injury. Right now, he ought to consider retiring as the undefeated heavyweight champion and enjoy the achievement, such as happened in the careers of Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano.

Foreman should forget about accepting any more fights. But that's a temptation the preacher man may not be able to hold off. The enjoyment he's experiencing is deluding him into thinking the odyssey will continue but, realistically, Father Time is going to cut him down with his sickle even if the fists of Moorer couldn't do the same.

Foreman, no doubt, is reveling in the historic achievement. He's saying an athlete doesn't reach his peak until "he's between the ages of 45 and 55." Then he goes on to contend, with a feeling of sincerity, that "America is a compassionate society because it gave me a second and third chance since it realized I believed in myself."

Bert Sugar, editor of Boxing Illustrated, who has now seen it all in this madcap Foreman hustle, was beside himself in explaining ++ what had happened.

"It's one of the most stunning moments in sports," he said. And, VTC let's hasten to agree that Sugar's words refute a challenge.

Harken back to 1974 when Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay) let Foreman punch himself into exhaustion in Zaire with his "rope-a-dope" tactics and then clubbed him into submission with a right cross in the eighth round.

Subsequently, Foreman fought and lost to Jimmy Young, an adept boxer but average hitter. When it was over, he screamed, out of desperation, in the locker room that he had to find God.

He began a mission to save souls and ascended the pulpit on Sunday mornings to deliver his message in an attempt to knock out sin in all forms. Then, while seemingly at peace with himself and his congregation, Foreman decided to take time away from the ministry -- but not to abandon it -- while returning to his original calling: prize fighting.

So boxing, going back to Cain and Abel, now has its oldest champion, George Foreman. His next bout will have a biblical ring. It's against a well-tested veteran named Methuselah.

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