If there is such a thing as a disgrace to boxing, the shameless campaigning of 41-year-old George Foreman for a fight against Mike Tyson is it.
And yet, Foreman is going about this quixotic pursuit in exactly the right way: He is fighting stiffs in out-of-the-way locations, with as little TV exposure as possible.
In other words, the less seen of Foreman the better, and he and his handlers seem to know it.
Last week's fiasco, in which the lumbering Foreman clubbed out a mismatched Mark Young in seven rounds, was a prime example. Held in the bustling fistic capital of Rochester, N.Y., the bout was sure to attract a crowd of, shall we say, unsophisticated fight fans and a definite shortage of knowledgeable media people.
Pay-per-view television was restricted to remote areas -- Costa Rica, Canada and some parts of Ohio -- and the fight was hyped at the last moment by a ludicrous offer of $1 million to Gerry Cooney for a Foreman fight, an offer even Don Elbaum, the man who made it, knew would never be accepted. And, of course, there was the expected and desired result -- Foreman, TKO 7.
As for the vast majority of sports fans, all they get to see is another KO on Foreman's numerically impressive record, and maybe a clip of the knockout punch on the late-night news. The next morning, of course, they get to read Foreman's increasingly ridiculous blatherings about how Tyson and the rest of the world's ranked heavyweights are "ducking" him. Joe Fight Fan scratches his head and says, "Geez, this Foreman's got 57 knockouts, and look at how big he is. Maybe Tyson is ducking him. That's a fight I'd pay to see."
And another sucker dives into the pay-per-view pool, which by late this year or early next year could generate a multimillion-dollar "title showdown" between Tyson and Foreman.
Well, here's the truth on Foreman: He can't fight and he can't punch; at least, not like he used to. He's lucky he can move. He's not at all exciting to watch. The only threat he poses to Tyson is if his elephantine body causes the ring to collapse.
But, you say, Foreman's got 15 straight KOs since he started his comeback in March 1987. Well, check into how many of those guys actually took a 10-count. That's right. None.
And check into how many of those guys actually hit the canvas. Less than half.
The straight scoop on Foreman's power: He doesn't knock 'em out, he clubs 'em out. His punches are heavy, but they have no snap, so they never catch an opponent by surprise. He can tenderize a side of beef hanging on a meat hook, but don't tell me he can knock out the cow. He'd be lucky if one of his wide, ponderous swings even grazed Tyson's gloves.
As for Foreman's mobility, it consists of walking around the ring on sodden legs. He stands in his corner between rounds, probably fearful that if he sits down, he'll never get up again. His training is so strenuous that since he started his comeback at 267 pounds, he is now all the way down to 253. He's so slow, Tyson could hit him six times before he got up off the ring stool, guaranteed.
It's also guaranteed that Tyson-Foreman will happen, because 99 percent of the American public believes Big George actually has a chance. The other 1 percent has seen him fight.
A lot of people think Larry Holmes is a skinflint who wouldn't bother to help anyone but himself. A lot of those same people think boxers make lousy role models for kids.
Well, those people should have been at P.S. 384 in the Bushwick section of New York City last week when Holmes, at his own expense, flew up from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to speak to the students about the dangers of drug abuse as part of the state's monthly Adopt-A-School anti-drug program. So far, Spinelli has used only boxers to address the kids -- Buddy McGirt, Mark Breland (twice), Gerry Cooney, Jose Torres and Doug DeWitt -- and the program has been a huge success.
Of course, the outspoken Holmes had a thing or two to say about his successor.
"I wouldn't want my kid to emulate Mike Tyson," said Holmes, a father of five. "True champions don't go shopping for clothes at 4 a.m. True champions are home with their families in bed."