George Foreman: Age is Just a Number
By Simon Graham
They say a fighter’s punching power is the last thing a fighter loses, but in the case of Big George Foreman, it would be his determination and his faith added to his punching power that would see him secure his greatest victory at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on November 5th 1994.
Foreman won heavyweight gold at the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico, turning professional the following year Foreman racked up a winning streak of 13 fights all but one coming by way of a knockout.
Through the early 1970’s the knockouts continued to come on a frequent basis, Foreman was soon tagged as a serious contender for the heavyweight crown, this was soundly justified when in 1973.
Foreman steamrollered through the much fancied world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, in a fight that lasted just two rounds. Smokin’ Joe hit the canvas 6 times, it was a convincing show of raw power by Foreman.
Next for Foreman was the hard hitting Ken Norton, who had just come through an easy first defence knocking out Jose Roman in one round.
Norton should have proved a much stiffer opponent, after all he had broken the jaw of Muhammad Ali however, Foreman dispatched Norton with consummate ease with a 2nd round TKO
Seemingly invincible Foreman marched into Zaire, Africa, to defend his titles against Ali in the now historic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ encounter. Many people actually feared for Ali’s well being fearing the ferocious punching power of Foreman would be too much for the former champion, the rest they say is history.
After losing his belts Foreman fought on for a couple of more years ending with a points loss to Jimmy Young. A near death experience prompted Foreman to become an ordained born-again Christian Minister and would spend the next 10 years speaking about his experiences while working within the community helping the youth and needy.
The comeback trail began in 1987, and for the next 4 years Foreman climbed up the heavyweight rankings winning with knockout victory after knockout victory.
At first many didn’t take the comeback seriously, but the ‘Punching Preacher’ was on a mission, a personal mission.
It is true to say that as the younger man Foreman had a brooding, solemn and dark persona an unattractive trait that boxing media moguls disliked. During his earlier career he was not a fan favourite but the new re-born Foreman was far more approachable and jovial resulting in a lucrative advertising deals.
The comeback campaign continued with Foreman picking up a new set of fans, his new personality winning over the old boxing faithful.
An unsuccessful attempt at winning the heavyweight titles via a points loss to Evander Holyfield and then to Tommy Morrison seem to signal the level of the comeback had been reached.
But in 1994, 20 years after first losing his heavyweight crown to Ali, Big George Foreman would make the impossible dream become a reality.
Then at the grand old age of 45, the oldest man to fight for a heavyweight title, Foreman stepped into the MGM Grand ring as the big underdog to take on the WBA and IBF champion Michael Moorer although considered by many to be just a caretaker title holder.
Moorer was 19 years younger, unbeaten with an impressive knockout ratio of his own, Foreman’s chances of causing an upset seemed zero to none.
For 9 rounds Moorer outclassed and outboxed his opponent, hitting Foreman at will who at times was a stationery target, unable to mount sustainable attacks.
Foreman stood in front of Moorer and took everything the young champion could throw at him, only occasionally landing heavy shots of his own.
But in Round 10, Foreman made his move, just like 20 years previous Foreman had been lulled into a false sense of security by the ‘rope a dope’ tactics of Ali. Only once Ali was satisfied he had worn out the aggressive assaults from the tiring Foreman, did Ali unleash a barrage of punches to end the fight.
With 20 years of experience the wily old challenger had spent 9 rounds sucking the young champion into the range of his deadly right hand, a one two combination caught Moorer on the side of the head with the damage done.
Foreman quickly followed up with another one two combination the big right hand finally detonating onto the chin of Moorer who instantly dropped to the canvas unable to beat the count.
Through all the euphoria and ensuing ring invasion of excited fans, family, fight team and media, one man stood tall, looked to the heavens then knelt in the corner for a silent prayer, Finally the oldest heavyweight champion in history had exorcised the ghost of Zaire.