Not in his prime? – Maybe. Can still win? – Definitely

19.07.06 - By Rizwaan Zahid: Last Saturday, boxing fans witnessed an upset to most, when heavily favoured Felix Sturm, was knocked out in the 10th round by 38-year-old Spaniard, Javier Castillejo. Despite having a comfortable lead heading to the tenth of a scheduled twelve, Sturm came out a little more aggressive than expected, especially since he was knocked down in the second round..

However this upset reminded us that in boxing, despite the age, the veteran and journeyman can show a glimpse of their prime.

Last month that was shown, when Bernard Hopkins out boxed Antonio Tarver over 12 rounds at the 175 lb weight limit, to win what was unquestionably his most difficult task date. Despite being 41 years old, Bernard was very similar to the Bernard Hopkins of the early 90’s, fearless of his opponents, and willing to trade blow for blow, and not sit and waiting for the fight to happen, but initiating it.

In 1987, George Foreman made a return to the ring after a 10 year layoff in hopes of capturing a title, once again. After 24 fights against little known opponents, and after four years, the once 228 pound fighter, now 257 took on Evander Holyfield. Despite a valiant effort, Foreman came up short, but continued fighting and landed a shot against Tommy Morrison. Losing a twelve round decision, “Big” George, looked to have went into retirement, this time, for good.

A year later however, Foreman would take another run at the heavyweight championship against undefeated 35-0 Pennsylvania native, Michael Moorer. Through nine rounds Foreman was behind on the cards and looked to have lost yet another decision, despite a valiant effort for a 45 year old.

“Being 45, or 55 is not a death sentence”, said Foreman. “You can do what you want to do”.

George implemented that, by putting the past into the present, when his left jab straight right hand sent Moorer down for the count in what is still seen as one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. He may have lost some of his hair, and weighed much more than the January 1973 date, when he annihilated Joe Frazier, but he still showed that same destructive power that sent Joe to the canvas six times, over two rounds.

Big George was in another upset, however this time he was on the other side of the result. About two decades before the Moorer fight, Foreman fought Muhammad Ali in the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Zaire. After going a combined total of five rounds in his last three fights against Joe Frazier, Jose Roman, and Ken Norton, George looked to end this fight in similar fashion.

From the opening bell Foreman was putting pressure on the former champ. The crowd was scared at every punch George threw. Ali’s corner was pleading with their fighter to get off the ropes which he pretty much refused to do so. Ali was seen as such an underdog, and was expected to have his head bounce back and forth by Foreman’s power. However, in round eight, all changed, when Ali bounce off the ropes landed numerous quick shots, and surprised everybody but himself, when George went sprawling to the canvas.

George couldn’t beat the count.

Ali’s corner celebrated more than he did, as did the commentators stunned at what they just saw. Unfortunately Foreman went into depression for a while, before he came back to the sport he loved so much.

“I was asked about a rematch”, said George. “They asked me if I wanted one. I said ‘no’, I’m not getting in the ring with that man again.”

Sturm’s loss to Javier may have been caused by a few things. He may have been overconfident and thought he’d be able to pick apart Castillejo like he did to so many other fighters. You can never under estimate the veteran. Even after you have taken all this into account, this is definitely not the first, and certainly not the last time, a veteran, goes for one last hurrah, and fights like it’s there first fight, with nothing but hunger and desire, and pulls of a giant upset, shocking everyone, except themselves.

Article posted on 19.07.2006

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