Allan Cerf riffs on a fight that would have been fun to watch
When boxing is slow – and at this frightening time in history it has ground to a halt – we have to keep on keeping on.
One of the fun things in boxing is “what if?” scenarios. What if John L. Sullivan was around today, would he be a top Cruiser? What would really happen if Homicide Hank, Henry Armstrong, stepped to defensive geniuses like Floyd Mayweather or the sadly departed Pea Whitaker? Speaking of Pernell, he said he would have beaten a prime Duran. I’m not so sure about that. Who wouldn’t want to find out?!
By the way, if you like these What If’s, holler! Tell us which mythical match-ups you’d like to see. We’ll do our best to write about them. Also – let us know what you think, are we on the money, or miles off course in our judgements about these fantasy fights?
Final word: Each mythical matchup assumes all fighters have equal access to today’s nutritional and training advantages. It also imagines that each fighter was about the same age as his opponent. If Jack Johnson, in other words, fought today, he would of course have today’s advantages – advantages that didn’t exist in his long-ago era.
In the case of our first mythical match-up, we’re going back in time, imagining Tyson met Foreman in Foreman’s day.
Mythical Match-Up one: George Foreman versus Mike Tyson
Date: Nov. 6, 1976.
Site: Old Yankee stadium. 15 rounds for a unified and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Prize money: An unheard of seven million dollars per fighter.
Network: Closed circuit TV at various theaters around the USA. Re-broadcast a week later on ABC
Television: Announcers: Howard Cosell and expert analyst Sugar Ray Leonard, fresh off Olympic Gold at the 76’ Montreal Olympics.
Round 1: Tyson roars out, winging huge punches and bearing in on Foreman to the roar of 65,000 thrilled fans. Foreman has done his homework, aided by trainer and former champion, Archie Moore. Still, Foreman has never seen a heavyweight as fast as a lightweight and looks concerned. Tyson’s flurry yields just one connect, a body blow to Foreman’s belly which hurts.
Teddy Atlas yells at Tyson to jab as the round winds down, but Tyson is intent on combination punching. His flurries mainly hit air.
Already, Tyson is confused. Moore, has trained Foreman well. Suddenly, Foreman throws his jab which excites Howard Cosell who says, “Think that fast jab isn’t hard? More like hitting a man with a street lamp.” It caught Tyson’s attention as his head snapped back.
On the bell, Tyson throws what the referee would later describe as the hardest punch he’s ever seen. It misses Foreman’s jaw by an inch.
Round Two – more of the same – a frustrated Tyson throws a barrage of punches. Tyson had never dreamed that Foreman could move a little. Foreman said to Cosell before the fight, “Howard, I’m NOT the kind of fighter to move around and say come to me,” but he’s doing a bit of just that.
Foreman can’t avoid all blows though, and Tyson smacks him with a jab, jolting left hook and powerful right to the temple. Foreman keeps a poker face and then lands his ‘powerful’ jab – with full force, and Tyson’s face immediately swells.
Infuriated, Tyson bobs and weaves his way in and Foreman fires a huge left uppercut that just misses and which would have decapitated Iron Tyson. There’s the bell.
In the corner, Atlas tells Tyson he’s doing the right thing by jabbing his way in. Tyson says “bullsh_t, I can’t just eat huge jabs. YOU try jabbing your way in, man.” Moore, meanwhile, tells an attentive Foreman, “He can’t take your movement son, bide your time.” The bell rings.
Rounds 3-4 see Tyson expending even more energy trying to utilize his so-called, short, 71” inch reach and mainly failing. Speed may be king, but Foreman’s seven-inch reach advantage and commanding height are really making Tyson work to get inside. Tyson tries his famous “6-4” combination, a right hook to the body followed by the crushing right uppercut to the head. The hook lands painfully, but Foreman allows it through to block the uppercut. Emboldened, Foreman feints a jab and then lands a powerful straight right that doesn’t connect fully, but hurts Tyson badly- mainly in the confidence department.
In his corner Atlas yells foolishly, “Tyson, remember this guy has a lot of tools. Be careful!” Wrong thing to say, as Tyson had planned for power and reach, not fast punches. In the opposite corner, Moore tells Foreman: “One more round and he’s shot his bolt, champ.” Foreman pleads, “But Arch, I want to really step to him, I don’t like all this moving around.” “Not yet, son,” not quite yet,” says Moore.
Moore is right. Tyson starts round five calmly trying to jab his way in. He makes it, but Foreman meets him with his own jab. Then, Foreman feints a jab and hits Tyson flush with a huge straight right that buckles Tyson’s knees.
Tyson forgets all about jabbing and goes berserk. He steps to Foreman who pushes him back and when necessary, clinches. Still, Tyson lands two huge hooks – and Foreman blinks. Only blinks. As Tyson is so far inside however, Foreman smacks him with some fast, lighter punches – which for every other boxer on earth, are huge. At the end of a combination, Foreman pushes Tyson back, angles his body right and throws his patented right cross on the bell. Tyson looks buzzed.
In his corner, Tyson curses Atlas fiercely: “You guys game-planned this, you know-it all’s. Now what the ‘F’ do I do?” A worried Atlas mumbles his usual line about finding fortitude. Tyson isn’t listening.
In the Foreman corner, Moore says – “Son, let him throw one last barrage then step to him and take him out.” Foreman looks at The Mongoose and smiles like a kid who has found his favorite missing toy.
Round six sees Tyson throwing all caution to the wind – what else can a short-armed boxer do against the towering Texan from Houston’s Fifth Ward? A jab and straight right find their way through Foreman’s guard and sting – but Tyson is slowing down. According to ABC’s Howard Cosell, there’s a “Feeling of finality to the proceedings.”
During the last 30 seconds of round six, Foreman pushes Tyson into a corner (as Buster Douglas did in a real fight on Feb. 11, 1990) and unloads long range punches including a straight right which closes a Tyson eye and another which bloodies or breaks his nose. As Foreman said of Riddick Bowe, Bowe wasn’t great because he only had an overhand right, nothing straight. Foreman does. End of story.
Atlas tells Tyson: “Tyson you can still regroup! YOU’RE the talented guy out there, NOT HIM!” but Tyson isn’t listening. Tyson knew bullying wouldn’t work against Foreman, but did bank on his own superior athletic talent. But Foreman has weathered the Tyson storm. Geometry is now in play and those angles are ALL WRONG.
In round 7, Tyson is only “reaching in!” yells fresh faced Olympian, Sugar Ray Leonard. Cosell says, “Ray, for our viewers, you mean by that Tyson’s not jabbing, just pawing?” Leonard confirms that’s what he meant.
As a man, Foreman won’t tolerate a lot of things. High on that list is pawing jabs. THAT must and will be punished. Tyson throws a weak jab, and like an unmerciful father whose son has presented C’s and one D, Foreman lands a left uppercut, two power jabs, a shocking left to the body, and a right uppercut. Then Foreman moves to his own right again, while keeping his left shoulder parallel to Tyson. Boom! Foreman lands an unseen right cross that flat-lines Tyson’s brain.
Tyson falls to the canvas like a stone and rises on instinct at eight. A young Richard Steele immediately halts the bout.
Foreman is swelling, bruised, cut and exhausted. But, on his stool, Tyson barely knows where he is.
Winner: Foreman TKO Tyson, 7, November 6, 1976.