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Boxing : Believe It or Not, Foreman-Cooney Fight Starting to Generate Interest

September 30, 1989|Steve Springer

"There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the human condition at its lowest ebb."

--Howard Cosell, watching the 1975 attempt by George Foreman to knock out five opponents on the same night turn into a free-for-all.

You were wrong, Howard, the ebb is about to go lower.

George Foreman is going to fight Gerry Cooney Jan. 15 in the Fight of the Decadent.

Unbelievable. They are actually going to go through with this, a fighter well past his prime against a fighter who never had a prime.

Foreman, at age 40, is 15 years and perhaps 50 pounds removed from his days as heavyweight champion. He says he hopes to get down to 250 pounds by the fight. Cooney, 33, hasn't fought since losing on a fifth-round knockout at the hands of Michael Spinks in 1987. He fought only eight times altogether in the 1980s.

Two lumbering, overweight fighters flailing away at each other like wild bulls ought to produce a telecast best suited for Wild Kingdom. Who does the winner get, Shamu?

Foreman says he wants heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.

"I want to win the world championship by the time I'm 42," Foreman told a New York news conference called to announce the Cooney fight. "Then, I'll retire and come back again at 52."

Why not? If this sells, anything will. And it is selling, according promoter Bob Arum.

"I thought it was going to be a moderate event," he said by phone from his Las Vegas office. "I know this is hard to imagine, but people are talking about this. I think it's a sleeper. The cable companies are calling us to make sure they are not left out."

And just what does Arum see as the appeal?

"These guys are established names--identifiable fighters, like Leonard, Duran, Tommy (Hearns) to some extent," he said. "Foreman is somebody everyone has heard about. And people know this is not going to be a pitter-patter fight. Nobody is going to run. Nobody knows who is going to win, but they know both fighters are going to throw bombs. It's going to be entertaining."

So let's get this straight. Arum drops middleweight champion Michael Nunn because his dancing, finesse style is too "boring," then signs up Foreman-Cooney because they are "entertaining?"

Arum is backing up his talk. Each fighter will receive at least $1.2 million for the bout, to be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center.

"I was projecting this fight would do about $20 million," Arum said. "Now it looks like it might go $40 million to $50 million."

Cooney was considered the latest Great White Hope when he fought Larry Holmes for the heavyweight title in 1982. But after being stopped in the 13th round, Cooney fought only three more times until the Spinks fight in '87 while stories of drug and alcohol abuse and a loss of desire swirled around him.

"I'm at peace with some of the things that happened in my turbulent life," Cooney said. "There was always a lot of confusion in what was happening to me. I couldn't get any fights . . . it seemed like I trained 10 years for three fights. I had a short bout with drugs and alcohol. That's over.

"I can't change the past . . . but on Jan. 15, you're going to see a whole different Gerry Cooney. You'll have different questions to ask me then."

Like, why did you do it?

Foreman disappeared from the ring for a decade, becoming a Texas preacher. His 1987 comeback was greeted with snickers, especially when it became apparent he had no intention of fighting anyone who could fight back.

"This is a dream fight," he said of his matchup with Cooney. "When people close their eyes, they dream about fights like Ali-Frazier, Liston-Clay. But those fights can't happen. This fight can, and this is the kind of fight people dream of.

"I'm not fighting Gerry Cooney. I'm fighting time."

And you're losing, George.

Still, Arum sees Tyson in Foreman's future if he should dispose of Cooney. Isn't it grand? You match up two guys going nowhere, and when one beats the other, he's suddenly on the road back.

"If Tyson's not available because he has his own agenda," Arum said, "George will fight (Evander) Holyfield. I don't think George has a chance, but who knows? I'm mystified by the whole thing."

If Holyfield doesn't work out, how about Roberto Duran? The way he gains weight between fights, if he loses his December bout to Sugar Ray Leonard, he may be ready for Foreman.

One thing you can say about this Jan. 15, 1990 bout, it will be the fight of the decade.

All two weeks of it.

Boxing Notes

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