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Foreman Faces Unranked Italian in Las Vegas

February 05, 1988|EARL GUSTKEY | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — News item: Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, after a 10-year retirement, announces he's returning to boxing.

Obvious conclusion: Foreman, like so many champions before him, is coming back as a charity case.

And it so happens that it's the truth, and both Foreman and his promoter, Bob Arum, admit it. However, it isn't Foreman who is the charity case, they say. It's George's kids, or a few hundred tough street kids in the Lone Oak Street neighborhood of northeast Houston.

"I have enough interest coming in on my invested money to allow me to live comfortably for the rest of my life," Foreman said Thursday. "But I've got a 200-acre ranch in Texas that's eating me alive with taxes, and I need some money to help build the George Foreman Community and Youth Center in Houston."

And so tonight at Caesars Palace, (televised on ESPN), the curious case of the 40-year-old Foreman (51-2) continues. The likely outcome is a seventh straight win since launching his comeback 11 months ago. He meets an unranked Italian, Guido Trane, 29, who is 13-6-4.

It's a double-main event card, with Bernard Taylor (39-2-1) defending his North American Boxing Federation featherweight championship against Jeff Franklin (18-2-2).

Foreman says he's taking a "low-profile road" to heavyweight championship contention. A title shot with Mike Tyson in a year or so, he says, would earn him enough money to build his youth center without borrowing money.

Tyson against Foreman? Yikes. Didn't we just see one former heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes (three years younger than Foreman) get leveled by the seemingly unbeatable Tyson?

Tyson's co-manager, Jim Jacobs, was asked if the scenario exists whereby his fighter would be matched with Foreman.

"No, he (Foreman) would never be matched with Mike," Jacobs said. Then he quickly hedged.

"Let me give a qualified answer to that," Jacobs added. "So far, the people Foreman has beaten are zeros. But if he were to step up in class and defeat two ranked fighters, like, let's say, Pinklon Thomas and Trevor Berbick, then we would possibly reconsider. But really, right now, you can't rank George Foreman in the top 5,000."

In the meantime, it is not illegal for George Foreman to dream.

"Larry Holmes was out (of boxing) more than two years, and they brought him back to fight Tyson with no warm-up fights," Foreman said Thursday. "And the public bought that fight, right? Well, so why not George Foreman?

"I mean, right now I'm not beggin' for a Tyson fight. I'm fighting once every month, getting in good shape, I'm getting sharp, I'm happy with how I'm coming along. Eventually, some promoter is going to put a package together, offer it to the Tyson people, and maybe something will happen. That's how things work in boxing."

It may be so that Foreman, one of boxing's all-time big hitters, is only a shadow of his former self. But it's also true the shadow is getting smaller. Foreman, who weighed 267 1/2 pounds for his first comeback fight 11 months ago (he says he weighed 320 18 months ago), says he'll come in at "242 or 243" for tonight's bout.

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