Sunday, February 19, 2017

Looking Back at the Foreman-Moorer Fght

This was one of the last boxing fights that stunned the world.

It also was one of the last truly big fights in boxing, and perhaps the last major heavyweight fight to really capture imaginations. Yes, this one resonated with people, as George Foreman dropping to his knees in his own corner after knocking Michael Moorer out to win the heavyweight championship of the world.

The fight was billed as "One for the Ages" (you see what they did there, right?), and it took place on the evening of November 5, 1994. 

Moorer had won the title by defeating Evander Holyfield, although it was later discovered that Holyfield had been fighting with a severe disability, having a hole in his heart.

Still, Moorer was the champion, and he gave George Foreman, himself a former heavyweight champion, a rare shot at winning the title again.Foreman was 45 years old, and had not been champion for the better part of two decades.

Yet somehow, on this night, it happened. 

Moorer entered the fight with an impressive, perfect record of 35-0. And while Foreman's record was not quite perfect like that entering the fight, he had a remarkable record of 72-4, with most of his wins coming by way of knockout. 

Most people believed that the only way that Foreman could win was if he landed a lucky knockout punch. Moorer was much younger, after all, and so had more energy and speed. Also, he had to have some fight knowledge, 

The end result in the fight, however, would have many people questioning his approach to the fight, particularly after receiving repeated warning from his trainer, Teddy Atlas, that Foreman was setting him up. 

Indeed he was, although Moorer somehow remained oblivious, right up to the point when he received that knockout punch, which is probably what Moorer is best remembered for.

This fight helped Foreman to overcome the bad memories of one of his own title losses, when he lost to Muhammad Ali in the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle" that has endured. In that fight, Ali used the now famous "rope a dope" strategy to allow Foreman to wear himself down punching Ali as hard as he can, with Ali weathering the storm and then hitting Foreman with a combination of his own that floored the then undefeated champion.

Foreman had a great career to that point, and by the 1990's, his mostly unfair image as an unlikable thug in the ring had already given way to his much more likable personality, as a preacher, an old man in the ring who was easy to cheer for, and finally, of course, for his Foreman Grill.

But on this night, he would finally erase the stinging legacy of that defeat to Ali by flooring Moorer, and becoming the oldest unanimous heavyweight champion in the world. This surprise result served as inspiration for many people.

For Moorer, surely, this was not unlike the defeat the Foreman himself suffered two decades ago. This was not unlike the humiliation of being defeate dbefore a national audience in a fight that would live on in popular imagination for years and years to come.

Yet, for his part, Moorer recovered. He did win again in the ring. In fact, Moorer has some impressive credentials, although you might never know it unless you specifically make a point of looking. He is one of only four men to have won heavyweight titles on three separate occasions, and also one of only four men to have won titles in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight categories. 

Still, he is best remembered for this loss to Foreman. And despite his impressive achievements during an illustrious boxing career, he is not remembered anywhere near as well as Foreman or Ali. Hell, he is not in the same category as either of those guys, or any of his major contemporaries, either. Nobody remembers him anywhere near as well as they do Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, or even Riddick Bowe. Bowe can claim some lasting memory, because he managed to get th better of a rivalry against Holyfield, and also won the undisputed heavyweight title more than one. Also, he is remembered for having been somewhat of a poet, in the style of Muhammad Ali before him.

Yes, Moorer is not remembered to the extent of any of those guys. Why? Probably because he beat Holyfield when Holyfield was clearly vulnerable, then he lost to Foreman by knockout, and lost the rematch to Holyfield convincingly. He also did not fight either Tyson or Lewis or Bowe. Also, he lost one match to David Tua in 30 seconds, and was laid out on the mat, lights out. All of that combined to compromise what otherwise might have been an enduring legacy, had he won more than that one huge match against Holyfield, when Holyfield was clearly not at his best, and was in fact suffering from a seriously debilitating condition. The other two huge matches that he was involved with, against Foreman and the rematch to Holyfield, were both losses by KO. That is why he will not be remembered as one of the true greats of his age, despite all of those impressive achievements.

For George Foreman, this was probably a career defining kind of championship fight. Sure, he had been champion before, and was the dominant fighter of his time for a while - kind of the predecessor to "Iron" Mike Tyson in the 1980's. His loss to Ali, however, had knocked him off from that perch, and had defined his career in a somewhat negative manner. At least until he came out of retirement, although this comeback was not complete until this most memorable fight, when he won the championship that he had lost twenty years earlier, to become the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing's history. 

No comments:

Post a Comment