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MIKE DOWNEY

Look Out, Big George! I'm Ready

November 11, 1994|MIKE DOWNEY

Over the objections of my doctor, my attorney, my editor, my personal trainer and my next of kin, I have agreed to fight George Foreman for the heavyweight championship of the world.

The bout will take place Thanksgiving Day in Las Vegas at the internationally famed Sizzler salad bar. Originally, we had planned this fight for the MGM Grand, but the showroom there already has been booked for December with the popular singing act, Congressman Bono and Cher.

After I had assured promoters that I was in no shape to box professionally, they looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Sign here."

Foreman expressed delight at giving a sportswriter a shot at the title, observing that everybody who works for a paper should be beaten to a pulp. Brain damage, George agreed, would not necessarily be a handicap in journalism.

Ring magazine immediately ranked me No. 9 among the top heavyweight contenders. Informed that I had never actually been inside a ring, the magazine's editor asked, "What's your point?"

The champion will receive $5 million, and I, $4.20 an hour.

When told about Foreman's plans, reaction among boxers was swift, which is more than can be said for most boxers.

Larry Holmes said, "How can George fight some old, out-of-shape sportswriter when there are plenty of old, out-of-shape fighters to fight?"

Mike Tyson said, "I've been with bars of soap tougher than most sportswriters."

Michael Moorer said, "Huh? What? What time is it? Where am I?"

Evander Holyfield said, "I thought George had already promised to be in the Thanksgiving Day parade--as a float."

Muhammad Ali said, "Float like a butterball. Sting like a beet. George found himself another turkey to eat."

Speaking for myself, I had serious doubts that any governing body would sanction this bout, including the WBA, WBO, HBO or GOP. But promoters Bob Arum and Don King agreed to approve the fight under boxing's new We Got Nobody Better clause.

"What type of fighter are you?" Arum asked.

"Type O," I replied.

"Who's your trainer?" King asked.

"Jenny Craig," I said.

"Where do you work out?" Arum asked.

"Baskin-Robbins," I replied.

"What will we call this fight?" King asked.

"The Thrilla in Vanilla," I said.

Main reason I wanted this fight was to contradict everyone who had the nerve to call the Foreman-Moorer fight a fix. I sat 10 feet from that ring, and the only thing anybody fixed was Moorer's nose. If he's a fake, he fakes bleeding really well.

After the fight, I wrote the champion's epitaph--Here Lies Michael Moorer; Two Slugs From George Foreman; No Michael; No More.

Then I began thinking of possible opponents for Foreman, who hopes to defend his title several more times before reaching boxing's mandatory retirement age of 70.

Names I quickly eliminated included Joe Frazier, Joe Frazier's sons, George Burns, Tommy Morrison, Tony Danza, Robert Shapiro, Mark Gastineau, Brigitte Nielsen, Oscar De La Hoya, Oscar de la Renta, Joe Frazier's grandsons, any American without proper health care and the winner of the Mickey Rourke-Hotel Security showdown at Trump Plaza.

Then I thought, "What about me?"

I submitted myself to an examination by the state of Nevada Boxing Commission's medical director.

"Say 'Ahhh,' " he said.

"Ahhh," I said.

"You pass," he said.

Then I had my own doctor examine me.

"You're in no shape for this," she said.

"In no shape to fight George Foreman?" I asked.

"In no shape for this examination," she said.

My attorney also objected.

"Have you lost your mind?" he asked.

"No," I said.

"Have you paid my bill?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Have a nice fight," he said.

My editor's reaction surprised me.

"Suppose you get killed?" he asked.

"Suppose I do?" I said.

"Don't you know what happens when an athlete kills a sportswriter?" he asked.

"No."

"It's a misdemeanor," he said.

Nobody can discourage me. This is my one chance at winning a championship. I will make headlines of my own. I will be fighting an older man. I will avoid his punch. George Foreman is one of the few professional athletes in the world I can outrun, the others mainly being in Sumo wrestling and senior golf.

After that, I will try women's professional tennis. Many of them I can also defeat, just before they turn 15.

More Mike Downey

For a collection of recent columns by Mike Downey, sign on to the TimesLink online service and "jump" to keyword "Mike Downey."

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