BOXING : Foreman-Tyson Bout Facing Big Hurdles

Maybe if Jim Jeffries hadn't tried that ill-advised 1910 comeback at 35, against Jack Johnson, none of this would have happened.

In the ensuing 80 years, most of the heavyweight champions--George Foreman the most recent--either fought too long or looked foolish in pipe-dream comebacks. Jeffries, the Los Angeles heavyweight champion in 1899-1905, was talked out of a five-year retirement by racists who insisted he knock the black champion, Jack Johnson, off his perch.

Jeffries, made a 10-6 favorite by gamblers, was beaten savagely by Johnson, who himself remained too long in the spotlight. At 37, he lost his title to Jess Willard in 1915.

Jack Dempsey was inactive for 27 months in the 1920s, then was beaten decisively twice by Gene Tunney. Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier all fought years past their prime, which brings us to Foreman.

Foreman, because he starched an over-the-hill heavyweight who wasn't much in his prime, Gerry Cooney, is being showered with money offers. Word is that Steve Wynn, who recently gave the world Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran at his Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, wanted Foreman to sign a three-fight deal that would include a Mike Tyson fight as the grand finale. Foreman turned him down, it's said.

A Foreman-Tyson fight is based on an assumption bigger than Foreman's waistline--that he can first defeat a top-10-ranked opponent, a species Foreman has carefully avoided in his 20-bout comeback.

Wynn got Foreman on the phone after failing to bring middleweights Michael Nunn and Tommy Hearns together.

Another possible roadblock to a Las Vegas Tyson-Foreman fight is that Donald Trump secured first-refusal rights to Tyson-Foreman when he bought the June 18 Tyson-Evander Holyfield showdown for $12 million.

If Foreman beats Jose Ribalta, Trevor Berbick or another top-10 boxer, then the prospect of Tyson-Foreman becomes only slightly less ludicrous than it is now. Until then, George Foreman remains as ill-equipped to fight Mike Tyson as he was when he began his comeback in 1987 after a 10-year retirement.

And speaking of over-the-hill heavyweights, are you ready for Larry Holmes-Michael Spinks III? Santa Monica promoter Harold Smith wants to match the two ex-champions--both of whom were flattened by Tyson--in Indonesia.

Smith talked to Holmes about such a matchup not long ago in Easton, Pa., and a $3-million purse for Holmes was discussed.

"They talked, and Larry told Harold: 'Show me the money, Harold, then we'll talk,' " said Richie Giachetti, one-time Holmes trainer.

And that, boxing fans, remains the name of the game. Money, $65,000 to be exact, brought Jim Jeffries back, and it's what brought Foreman back. Foreman would make millions in a Tyson fight, but the outcome would be the same as Jeffries-Johnson, with a young champion looking down on a beaten, old champion.

Boxing Notes

According to Boxing Update newsletter, Roberto Duran aided U.S. troops during the Panama invasion. Duran is said to have encouraged Panamanians not to resist the Americans and also to have "loaned" one of his apartments to U.S. troops, who used it to watch the Papal Embassy, where Manuel Noriega took refuge.

Jimmy Lennon Jr., will be the ring announcer for the Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas fight in Tokyo next Saturday. Lennon, 31, is in his eighth year of introducing fighters. His father, now retired, did the same for decades, mostly at the Olympic Auditorium. . . . Richie Giachetti, once Larry Holmes' trainer, on Douglas: "He's got a better shot than (Tony) Tubbs. But if he gets whacked, he's gone." . . . A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that all foreign TV-rights money from the Tyson-Douglas bout be paid into a court fund and not to Tyson's estranged manager, Bill Cayton. A spokesman for Don King, Tyson's promoter, claimed that Cayton has withheld as much as $500,000 in foreign TV money from Tyson. King, meanwhile, has been sued for $8 million by promoter Murad Muhammad after the Tyson-Razor Ruddock bout at Edmonton, Canada, in November was "postponed" and then not rescheduled when Tyson became ill.

Caesars Palace and promoter Bob Arum lost the Tommy Hearns-Michael Olijade middleweight fight they had tentatively set for April 26. That one will now open the new Taj Mahal Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., on Showtime April 28. Arum, meanwhile, says George Foreman will "definitely" fight on an Arum show in April in Las Vegas, against an opponent to be named. As for the theory that Tyson-Foreman, should it occur at all, would wind up in Japan, Arum said: "George would resist that very strongly. He's a real patriot." On the same theme, Foreman told The Times a year ago: "Do we have to let the Japanese have everything?

It's said that Steve Wynn offered Julio Cesar Chavez $4 million to fight Macho Camacho in Las Vegas. Camacho retained his World Boxing Organization junior welterweight title with a 12-round decision over Vinny Pazienza Saturday night. . . . Paul Banke, one-time Azusa amateur whiz, will get a second try at Daniel Zaragoza, the World Boxing Council super-bantamweight champion, in mid-March at the Forum. In June, Banke lost a unanimous decision to Zaragoza in his first title try. . . . March 14 is the 10th anniversary of the plane crash in Poland that killed 22 members of a U.S. amateur boxing delegation, including 14 boxers.

Paul Gonzales was to have met the winner of the recent WBC super-flyweight title fight in Seoul between Nana Konadu and Moon-Sung Kil, but he has been put on hold. In a controversial finish, the bout was stopped in the ninth round because of Kil's cuts, but Kil, not Konadu, was declared the "technical-decision" winner because he was ahead on all scorecards. If you find that hard to believe, you can imagine how Konadu and his corner reacted. Japanese reporter Joe Koizumi wrote afterward that the stoppage alone mystified nearly everyone, since Kil's cuts didn't seem all that bad. Whatever, WBC chief Jose Sulaiman, who was present, ordered a rematch as soon as possible. So, for Gonzales, who was promised the winner at the Forum, the wait goes on. In fact, he may give up on the super-fly title idea altogether and instead challenge WBC bantamweight champion Raul Perez.

Mark Breland will defend his World Boxing Assn. welterweight title in London March 3 against Lloyd Honeyghan. . . . Unbeaten Virgil Hill will defend his WBA light-heavyweight title for the eighth time Feb. 25 in his hometown, Bismarck, N.D., against David Vedder. A victory by Hill would set up a possible HBO light-heavyweight unification tournament.

Lennox Lewis, the 1988 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medalist, improved to 7-0 as a pro with a second-round KO of Noel Quarless Wednesday in London. He will next meet African champion Proud Kilimanjaro. . . . Henry Woods, top welterweight of the 1930s, died in Yakima, Wash., Wednesday. Woods, 75, was once the California lightweight champion and lost a 1935 decision to Barney Ross in a world title bout. . . . Olympian lightweight Todd Foster of Great Falls, Mont., 10-0 as a pro, may fight on an NBC card soon and then be signed afterward to a multifight package by the network.

Mando Ramos celebrates the 21st anniversary of his winning the world lightweight title from Teo Cruz at 20 on Feb. 18 at Local 9 Shipbuilders Hall in Wilmington. An amateur boxing show, dinner and film highlights of Ramos' boxing career are scheduled. Tickets are $25, with proceeds going to Boxing Against Alcohol and Drugs. Information: (213) 519-7555.

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