BOXING / TIM KAWAKAMI : Foreman's Next Opponent: the WBA

George Foreman had finished a run along the beach and, with his heart and anger pumping, was not feeling like a man too old to fight for the heavyweight championship.

Too old to fight? Foreman growled at the question, and promised that he will battle as hard as it takes--in court if necessary--to prove that, as he says, "I have a right to fight."

Foreman acknowledges being 45 or older. His scheduled bout against champion Michael Moorer on Nov. 5 was wiped out this week by the World Boxing Assn., which refused to sanction Foreman as a legitimate challenger.

A WBA attorney has said the organization feared for Foreman's safety, and added that in a boxing atmosphere chilled by the recent death of Robert Wangila after a Las Vegas fight, precautions must be heightened.

"I've got to fight this," Foreman said Friday from the house he rented in Malibu to prepare for the Moorer fight.

"You just can't go on that, that I'm 45 and could get hurt. If you're 25 years old or if you're 45, the concern has to be equal, unless there are other medical reasons. And I was checked out.

"You just can't be fearful. You can't just say, 'Well, he's 45, he can't fight.'

"And I just can't stick my head in the ground and say, 'Oh, I guess I am too old for this.' I'm young. I'm not an old man. People come up to me, they say, 'George, you're getting up there.' But I'm not getting up there. I can fight. I've never met a boxer who can outdo me in the gym, on the road, anywhere.

"If it were just George Foreman being affected, you might say, 'Hey, I'll leave this alone, I've got a dollar or two . . .' But this is not just about me. If I don't fight this, then we're telling people if you're over 30, you're dead as an athlete. That's not right."

Foreman plans to stay in the Los Angeles area while his attorney, Henry Holmes, pursues legal avenues--against either the WBA or the Moorer camp, with whom Foreman had a contract. That contract stipulated that in order for the fight to take place, it had to be sanctioned by the WBA and the International Boxing Federation.

Foreman's camp argues that Moorer's camp did not fight the WBA aggressively enough on the sanctioning issue. The IBF, after a medical examination of Foreman last week in New York, had approved the bout.

Foreman's promoter, Bob Arum, said he is considering suing the Moorer camp and promoter Dan Duva for breach of contract.

Foreman scoffs at the WBA's apparent concern for his health--especially because Joe Hipp probably will replace Foreman as Moorer's opponent for the November fight. The WBA attorney, Jimmy Binns, was quoted as saying that Foreman's loss to Tommy Morrison last year was evidence that his skills had eroded dangerously.

"That's strange," Foreman said. "I lost to Tommy Morrison in a decision and Joe Hipp got creamed by Tommy Morrison (in a ninth-round technical knockout on June 27, 1992). And Joe Hipp's OK to fight and I'm not. Strange.

"I would like to know, who is this WBA guy? I heard he's an attorney who never had one day of medical training. Can you just say things like that if you're a lawyer? What, does he have my DNA or something?"

Others in Foreman's camp have suggested that this isn't about health concerns at all, that as always in boxing, politics has everything to do with it.

Foreman believes Moorer, after listening to how serious Foreman sounded during their media tour, was looking for a way out of the bout.

"I think they got scared," Foreman said. "I showed Michael Moorer up. I think I showed the whole camp up. So I think they found a way out, with an organization that you can't even find in this country."

John Davimos, Moorer's manager, laughed at that, saying Moorer would have loved to fight Foreman but was not going to risk having his title taken by the WBA.

"What did they want us to do?" Davimos asked. "Get stripped for George Foreman? Are they crazy?"

Others around Foreman point to Don King's hidden influence, noting that if Moorer had gone ahead with the bout and his title was taken away by the WBA, the next five heavyweights in line in the WBA rankings are all King's fighters.

"You realize things are very political," Foreman said. "I've been dealing with the politics of boxing since the early '70s, so I know they exist. Then all of a sudden it hits you, hey, certain times politics shouldn't get up and ruin things.

"I am like Patrick Henry. I am fighting for liberty. And liberty does not end because of a birthday. It doesn't say, 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness until you turn 40.' "

Boxing Notes

Before Saturday night's bout, ruled a no-contest against Buster Mathis Jr., Riddick Bowe went back to conditioner Mackie Shilstone, who had worked with Bowe before he beat Evander Holyfield for the title. Bowe and Shilstone then had a breakup. But Bowe's recent back problems--which caused the cancellation of two bouts--appear to have convinced Bowe about Shilstone for good.

"I think I had something like a herniated disk," Bowe said recently. "Mackie's helping me use muscles I've never used before, strengthening the weak spots." Bowe acknowledged that he was "very anxious" heading into the fight. "This has been the longest inactive period of my professional career. I want to go out there, make a little noise and let people know I am the best heavyweight out there."

Miguel Angel Gonzalez, the World Boxing Council lightweight champion, who drew more than 10,000 in Mexico for his last title defense, has asked the Forum to try to match him with Oscar De La Hoya. . . . Why did Pernell Whitaker, after months of saying Buddy McGirt didn't deserve a rematch, agree to fight McGirt on Oct. 1 on HBO at Virginia Beach? Because the only fight Whitaker really wants is a rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, who is unavailable. Chavez will be fighting Meldrick Taylor on Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Other than Chavez, what other opponent is there for Whitaker, who has proved himself beyond doubt? Maybe IBF welterweight champion Felix Trinidad, but he, like Chavez, is promoted by Don King. So, with HBO and the New York media pushing hard for the New York-based McGirt, the agreement was reached.

The biggest beneficiary of the Moorer-Foreman cancellation might be the still-in-planning James Toney-Roy Jones super-middleweight showdown. Promoter Bob Arum has it scheduled as a pay-per-view bout on Nov. 19, but hasn't found a site. Because the MGM Grand was set to hold Moorer-Foreman on Nov. 5, the hotel-casino wasn't interested in another bout only two weeks later. But with the MGM Grand apparently ready to take a pass on Moorer-Hipp, suddenly Toney-Jones becomes its best bet for a winter fight.

Calendar

Monday: Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Israel Gonzalez, super-bantamweights; Sammy Fuentes vs. Gilberto Flores, junior-welterweights; Forum, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday: Rodney Toney vs. Bastante Blanco, middleweights; Irvine Marriott, 7:30 p.m.

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