NEW YORK -- Addressing the issue publicly for the first time, George Foreman yesterday denied paying International Boxing Federation officials to sanction a 1995 title bout with unranked Axel Schultz of Germany.
"You all should know that I would never pay a bribe," said Foreman, a national spokesman for Meineke Mufflers and other products. "I never paid a bribe. I never needed anything in the ring but a chance."
Foreman and promoter Bob Arum had been ordered not to address the issue in public because they were witnesses in a federal case in New Jersey against IBF president Bob Lee and three other officials, who face 32 charges of soliciting and accepting bribes to fix rankings.
Arum has accused Foreman of paying $250,000 to the IBF in 1994 to sanction a 1995 title fight with Schultz to avoid a rematch with No. 1-ranked Michael Moorer.
In his earlier title fight with Moorer, Foreman was losing before knocking out Moorer in the 10th.
Foreman had evaded the question until yesterday, when he was the keynote speaker at a symposium entitled "Boxing's Place in America" at the St. Regis Hotel.
He had just completed a speech, during which he said he "wanted to make some young boy say of himself that's [Foreman] the kind of man I want to be," when New York Post columnist Wallace Matthews surprised him with the question.
Foreman later told Matthews, "That was the right question to ask," but Matthews angered Arum's attorney by asking the question.
"When there's a criminal lawsuit going on, the questions have to be answered in the courtroom," said Mike Heitner.