20 Years Ago Today: Holyfield Vs. Foreman: “The Battle Of The Ages!”

By James Slater:

“I’m here to prove the age of 40, 50, is not a death sentence," George Foreman.

Young beats old," Evander Holyfield.

Exactly twenty years ago today, heavyweight legends Evander Holyfield and the incomparable George Foreman met in Atlantic City to contest the undisputed world title. Holyfield, a young 28-years-of-age, was the defending champion, and Foreman, an “old” 42-years, was the unlikely challenger.

Ahead of the fight, hardcore Foreman fans were seemingly alone when it came to giving the former king any chance of regaining his old crown. Now 69-2 overall and 24-0(23) in the return he launched in 1987, “Big” George was a heavy underdog against the 25-0 former undisputed cruiserweight boss. But, as per his rallying cry, Foreman was there to prove age is indeed just a number, and that young fighters like “The Real Deal” should be respectful to their senior citizens. Holyfield, allowing Foreman to sell the lion’s share of the tickets and to let loose with the memorable sound-bites, did manage one great line of his own: “something big is going down,” he said, before adding, “and his name is George Foreman!”

But, as legendary writer Budd Schulberg later wrote for Boxing Illustrated magazine, Foreman didn’t fall - “The Bigger They Are The Harder They DON’T Fall,” bellowed the late writer’s headline.

And how George had to display courage so as not to fall. Hurt a number of times during the exciting, critic-silencing battle - in rounds-3,7 and 9 especially - the old slugger fought back, held on and just plain gutted it out. Having more than a few moments of his own success - most notably in the 5th, the 7th and the 10th-rounds - Foreman came close to giving as good as he got.

“He’s certainly done a lot for us fatties,” bellowed British scribe Colin Hart who, along with Ian Darke, was doing commentary for Sky Sports in the U.K.

Foreman did a lot more than make “fatty” Hart feel good: he lived up to his promise of making senior citizens the world over feel proud. The decision at the end of the fast-paced 12-rounder may have been unanimous in Holyfield’s favour but, in unleashing another great line, Foreman told how he (Evander) may have won the points, but that he (George) made the point. That he did: that a man of 42, if he possessed as much courage, as much self belief and as much desire as he did, could hang tough and go toe-to-toe with the current heavyweight champion of the world!

Of course, just under four years later, Foreman went one better than he did against Holyfield; as he made history and regained the crown from the unbeaten Michael Moorer. In some strange way, though, Foreman-Holyfield is the more memorable fight.

Either way, we all agree “Big” George Foreman is a true living legend. So too is Evander Holyfield for that matter. But who, twenty years ago, would have believed he’d still be fighting today at age 48?

Article posted on 20.04.2011

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