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Foreman's Last Right Ended Moorer Vigil

November 08, 1994|JIM MURRAY

As punches go, it wasn't much. It looked on television more a push than a blow. Years ago, a punch like this might have resulted in the fighters having their purses held pending an investigation. But that was in the days when purses were a few thousand. These guys were getting millions.

But that punch is going to rate with David's slingshot. In the little world of fistiana, it's going to rank with the punch that Dempsey threw, sending Tunney to the floor in the Long Count fight. It's going to rank with the wallop Marciano put Joe Walcott away with in 1952. It's going to rank with anything thrown in any of those "Rocky" movies. It's the stuff of legend.

You know what it reminded me of? That punch Muhammad Ali threw to KO Sonny Liston in their second fight in Lewiston, Me., in '64.

You will remember the catcalls that one occasioned. I was the only guy on press row who thought it was a legitimate finisher. The fight crowd was shouting "Fake!" But the fight crowd was shouting "Fake!" one night in 1933 when a heavyweight named Ernie Schaaf was knocked out by Primo Carnera. Schaaf was dying at the time.

A fistic punch is like an assassin's bullet. It behaves erratically, not predictably.

There is also the matter of cumulativeness. I remember reading for days of the "one-punch" knockout of Walcott by Marciano. So, I went to see the movies. It was clear from them that this was no one-punch scenario.

Marciano began to club Walcott into insensibility as early as the eighth round. By the 13th, Jersey Joe was like a tree sawn almost in half. He could be toppled by a tap. Marciano hit him a monster blow but Walcott would have succumbed to a jab by then.

I think Michael Moorer was in the same predicament against George Foreman last Saturday. He had fought about as stupid a tactical fight as it was possible to lay out. Here, he had a man 20 years his senior, slow of foot, fat and 45. Gene Tunney could have told him what to do. So could Ali. Keep on the move, make him chase you, don't be a fighter, be a fugitive.

Moorer just stood in front of George all night long, a human punching bag who should have been hung from a chain. He was as easy to hit as 22 in blackjack. It was misplaced macho.

It has been a long-held tenet here that the effectiveness of a punch depends on its velocity. To hurt you, a car has to be going more than 5 m.p.h.

George Foreman's punches appeared to be in parking gear, too slow to be damaging. Moorer seemed emboldened by their ineffectiveness.

What I think he failed to reckon with was their cumulative effect. You can get damaged in a pillow fight if you get hit often enough in the head.

In the ninth round Saturday, Moorer began to show confusion, behave erratically. He got careless. He started to get hit with short rights that found their way through his gloved defense. It is the notion here that these punches piled up and began to exact their toll.

In between rounds, Moorer's corner man, Teddy Atlas, kept telling his fighter, "Our sparring partners were better than this guy," and, "If he were in our camp, he wouldn't last."

Confidence is like fine wine. A little of it helps the digestion. A lot of it ruins the liver. Moorer might have gotten an overdose.

In the fight game, it's an axiom that the punch is the last to go. (The legs are first.) So it was questionable, if not suicidal, for Moorer to conclude that this creature in front of him was not armed and dangerous.

In the 10th round, he got hit by so many hard rights and baling-hook lefts that his feet came up from the floor occasionally. It is the notion here also that, almost unnoticed, Moorer was slipping into semi-consciousness.

But it doesn't matter. Fistic legend will always have it that George, eye almost closed, face swollen, legs rubbery and feet hurting, summoned one last thunderous right hand from memory and scored one of the great victories in ring history.

To be sure, he did. And George Foreman, who waved an American flag after his first title victory--in the Olympics--and knelt in prayer after his last, is the kind of hero America has had all too little of lately. George won graciously and Moorer lost graciously in the best traditions of American sport. But, most of all, George taught us to respect our elders.

I don't know about you but he's my hero. Let's elect him President.

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