ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Don't bother reminding George Foreman that heavyweight legend Jack Johnson was still fighting at 60 or that former light-heavyweight king Archie Moore ended his legendary ring career at 49 with a third-round knockout.
"I'm not interested in making boxing history, said Foreman, who, at 48, will be defending his World Boxing Union heavyweight crown against one-time sparring partner Lou Savarese at the Convention Center tomorrow night.
"Sure, I'd like to still be fighting at 50, but I'm having fun and doing it for myself, not for some place in the record book. I just want to stay active. I'm not after anybody in particular. If things go well in this fight, they'll be knocking on my door."
And probably offering big bucks to Foreman, who became the oldest heavyweight champion in history at 45, when he scored a shocking, 10th-round knockout of Michael Moorer. He will earn $4.5 million for tomorrow night's appearance on HBO, a princely sum attributed as much to his gift of gab as his still dangerous right fist. As one pundit put it, "Foreman has mastered the 'shtick-and-move' " in negotiating multimillion-dollar purses.
A preacher and television pitchman for hamburgers and mufflers, Foreman said he learned salesmanship from his father.
"My daddy once told me that no one follows the water truck," he said. "They all want to chase after the fire engine. That's me. I'm always yelling and blowing off steam.
"I constantly tell my kids that it doesn't matter how many college degrees you have hanging on the wall. If you can't sell yourself, you'll probably starve. I've been selling George Foreman and boxing for the past 10 years."
When he launched his comeback in 1987 at 38, after a 10-year layoff, Foreman said, he could not envision himself still scuffling 10 years down the road.
"At the time, I set a goal of winning back the heavyweight title. I told myself, 'I'll give this comeback four years, and then I'll be gone.' But here I am still putting on short pants."
Foreman (75-4, 68 KOs) was forced to abdicate his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles for failing to grant rematches to Moorer or Germany's Axel Schulz, who lost a controversial decision in 1995.
But Foreman said: "I tell my sons, George, George and George, that I beat the the man [Moorer] who beat the man [Evander Holyfield]. If I didn't think I could beat Holyfield and Mike Tyson the same night, I'd quit. All I'd need is a drink of water between fights."
Boxing experts believe Foreman will have his hands full with Savarese, finally fighting his old mentor after three proposed meetings failed to materialize.
Savarese, 6 feet 5, 230 pounds, has been likened to former heavyweight Gerry Cooney.
But Savarese, 31, said he has been careful not to make the same mistake that Cooney made in his unsuccessful title bids against Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks.
"Cooney made a big jump too soon," Savarese said. "He went from fighting washed-up guys straight to Holmes. My timetable has been a lot slower."
Savarese boasts a 36-0 record with 30 knockouts since turning pro in 1989, but only his most recent victim, Buster Mathis Jr., had any ring pedigree.
Asked if he would quit if he loses tonight, Foreman said: "If I get beat fair and square, I'll never fight again. But if the guy runs from me 12 rounds to get a decision, no way. I'll just keep on swinging."
Who: George Foreman (75-4, 68 KOs), Marshall, Texas, vs. Lou Savarese (36-0, 30 KOs), Houston
What: For Foreman's World Boxing Union heavyweight title; scheduled 12 rounds
Where: Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center
When: Tomorrow; main event starts at about 10 p.m.
Tickets: $300, $200, $100, $50, $25
Pub Date: 4/25/97