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BOXING / TIM KAWAKAMI : Foreman Hasn’t Lost Appetite for Title

George Foreman, once again a soulless sport turns its lonely eyes to you.

In a combination of need and greed, circumstances suddenly encourage the emergence of a television-friendly heavyweight to challenge the current, sullen champion. The big money is being flashed again to the big man.

And Foreman is not about to skip his second midlife title-fight payday, even though he is now 45 (or older), even though he hasn’t fought since he was beaten by Tommy Morrison last June 7, and even though his family is loath to see him re-enter this violent world.

“I am so excited about this,” Foreman said from his ranch in Marshall, Tex. “It’s sometimes hard to believe it’s really happening.”

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Unless the deal-makers somehow botch it or old feuds overtake the negotiations, Foreman will fight for the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Assn. heavyweight titles before the end of this year against Michael Moorer, the 26-year-old left-hander who overturned all of the multimillion-dollar unification plans by defeating Evander Holyfield last month.

Moorer might make his first defense against Joe Hipp in August or September, then fight Foreman next. Or he might go right to a November date against Foreman, which could earn Moorer about $10 million and give Foreman more than $4 million.

Why is this happening? Although there is the freak show potential--"I’m 20 years older than this fellow, at least,” Foreman said with a laugh--nobody buys this fight if they don’t think Foreman has a chance.

Three years ago, when he gave Holyfield a decent fight in Holyfield’s first title defense, Foreman had been slowly building credibility with a steady stream of victories.

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Where’s the credibility coming from this time?

It’s in Foreman’s drawing power. The Holyfield fight drew a still-record 1.4 million pay-per-view homes.

It’s in Foreman’s bulk--he says he will get down to a relatively trim 240 or less to fight Moorer--and Foreman’s power against the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Moorer’s perceived vulnerability against any larger man who can jab.

And in the broadest sense, it’s in the vast disillusionment over Moorer and Britain’s Lennox Lewis--two dangerous but limited fighters.

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“I think the champions are pretty good, Moorer and the guy from Europe, I can’t even think of his name,” Foreman said teasingly of Lewis, the World Boxing Council champion. "(Lewis) fought a C fighter (a knockout of Phil Jackson May 6), you know--like you have B movies--and was getting hit and having trouble. It makes you start wondering . . . not that they aren’t good, but where is the competition? Where is it?

“The state of heavyweights in boxing is not that good.

“You know what? People who are in the business are actually saying for the first time I could probably whup this guy.”

For the Moorer camp, a unification bout against Lewis is off until next year, and the real cash comes when Mike Tyson gets out of prison sometime next year. Foreman appears to be the least risky of the remaining big-money choices.

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“We’re excited about maybe Lennox Lewis or Riddick Bowe,” said Moorer’s manager, John Davimos. “Those are the real big paydays. So, before we can get to those, what I’m excited about is as much money as we can possibly make with as little risk--without getting crucified by media.”

Did Foreman expect another shot at the title after Moorer defeated Holyfield?

“Not at all did I think it was possible,” Foreman said. “But I called (promoter) Bob Arum after the fight and he said, ‘You know, George, this is a grand opportunity for you.’

“I said, ‘You have a point.’ All I have to do is just go in a gym to lose a lot of weight. . . . For this fight, I’ll work hard. I might even get into the (230s) this time.

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“Him being a southpaw doesn’t mean anything to me. I swing from left field anyway, so what does that matter?”

*

At the end of the Moorer-Holyfield broadcast, Foreman criticized the judging that gave Moorer the decision and strongly implied that Dan Duva, promoter of both men, had unduly influenced the outcome.

That enraged Duva, and HBO deleted the commentary from the cable replay days later.

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“I was shocked when HBO did that,” Foreman said. “I watched HBO one evening, and some of the things they say and do on there is a lot worse than anything I ever did, and then to take out something said as the heartfelt truth, it makes you wonder who’s afraid of what.”

Boxing Notes

The decision to stop the Julio Cesar Chavez-Frankie Randall rematch because of a head butt-caused cut over Chavez’s right eye last week was confusing, but the real controversy over Chavez’s bizarre eight-round technical-decision victory should be focused on Mexican judge Ray Solis. He was hand-picked by the World Boxing Council to work the super-lightweight title bout, but reportedly is not allowed to judge in Tijuana because of failing eyesight. He scored the fight for Chavez, 77-74, a strange score for anyone who saw Randall dominate Chavez. But this is not new. Solis also judged that Chavez, who was knocked down and assessed two penalty points, had won the first bout against Randall.

Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, suggested that Solis and other “nationalistic” judges such as him no longer be approved to score Nevada fights. “It just looks wrong,” Ratner said.

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World Boxing Assn. junior-lightweight champion Genaro Hernandez is recuperating from operations on his right hand that inserted, then removed a screw to strengthen injured ligaments. Said Hernandez, who has never been paid more than $160,000 for a fight: “It’s about time I get a big payday. I’m tired of just sitting and waiting. I’ve decided I’ll fight anybody from featherweight to lightweight, Rafael Ruelas, Gabriel Ruelas, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, anybody, if the money is right. I’m not getting anything just sitting here with my title. I’ve got to do something.”

Among the fighters working at Larry Goossen’s Big Bear gym these days are Riddick Bowe, Oscar De La Hoya, the Ruelas brothers, WBA cruiserweight champion Orlin Norris and heavyweight Jeremy Williams, who is working with trainer Joe Goossen. Williams, who suffered the first defeat of his career last March when he was dominated by Larry Donald, has left Manager Bill Cayton and has agreed to a series of fights for Bob Arum at the Olympic Auditorium, the first next Friday. Goossen had Williams sparring with Norris on Tuesday.

CALENDAR

Wednesday: Rene Arredondo vs. Pat Lawlor, welterweights; Juan Lazcano vs. Oscar Gonzalez, lightweights; Hollywood Palladium, 7 p.m.

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Friday: Gabriel Ruelas vs. Paris Alexander, junior-lightweights; Jeremy Williams vs. Andrew Stokes, heavyweights; Olympic Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.


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