by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — You bet I’m rooting for George Foreman tonight. And so is every American male over 19 or 27 or 31 or whatever age your metabolism changes and suddenly, one morning, after eating the same healthy food you’ve eaten since you were a boy — namely, a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, a baloney sandwich, three Mallomars, two burgers and a half-liter of Coke — you wake up with Bill Murray’s body. But not his sense of humor.

Which is the problem. If you have Murray’s sense of humor, it might be a fair trade. You could tolerate all that sagging flesh because you could always say, “Did you see my last movie? It grossed $140 million. Pass the fries.”

Alas, we cannot all be Bill Murray. But anyone can be George Foreman, with enough helpings at the buffet table. Big George, 42, is an inspiration to us all. Can you imagine if he wins tonight? Against young and svelte Evander Holyfield? All across America Saturday, men will be gulping pizza and milk shakes, and when their wives say, “What are you eating that garbage for?” they will reply: “Training for the heavyweight championship, honey. (Burp).”

This would be reason enough to root for Foreman. But there is more. The man is funny. I don’t know when he became funny. I don’t recall him being funny back in the old days, when he had hair. Maybe you get funnier when you’re bald. (Don Rickles? Bob Newhart? That guy from “Night Court”?) Anyhow, I don’t remember Foreman laughing much in the ’70s, when he punched the lights out of, among others, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. But these days, he has become, if you pardon the boxing pun, a stitch.

REPORTER: “You weighed in at 257 pounds.”

FOREMAN: “I was hoping for 265. Shame on me. And I had dinner, too.”

REPORTER: “The record for heaviest fighter ever is 270 pounds.”

FOREMAN: “I’m on the verge of a record here? Somebody quick. Get me a ham sandwich!” Foreman fattened record on no-names

Of course there’s a difference between being a stand-up comic and a contender for the heavyweight championship. At least I think there’s a difference. And so people are wondering about this Foreman-Holyfield fight: Are we supposed to take it seriously? Is it sports or theater? After all, Foreman weighs as much as a small land cruiser. And his previous opponents are not exactly names you paste on your resume. Let’s go through a few of them:

March 1987: Steve Zouski. Hmm. Never heard of him. Think I went to high school with his sister.

February 1988: Guido Trane. Not to be confused with cousins Soul and Midnight.

August 1988: Ladislas Mijangos. Don’t know it. Can’t spell it.

December 1988: Dave Jaco. Charles’ brother?

February 1989: Manuel Clay De Almeida. Wait a minute, I . . . hee-hee . .
. mmph . . . I don’t mean to laugh, it’s just . . . HAHAHAHA.

January 1990: Gerry Cooney.

Ah. Gerry Cooney. Now there’s a name you can hang your hat on. In fact, given Cooney’s shape, you can hang your coat, jacket, scarf and boots on him as well. Cooney is supposedly one of the “marquee” opponents Foreman has beaten to earn his $12.5 million tonight. Of course, that would be like telling my newspaper I scored a 98 on my third-grade spelling test, and Pete Iannuzzi, who sat behind me and always had his shirt untucked, scored only a 78 so therefore, I deserve a $500,000 raise. Wouldn’t work. But then, my bosses are conservative.

The crazy thing is Don King isn’t even involved with this fight. Not that it matters. Most boxing promoters are identical: they smell money, they dive in. And they aren’t going to worry if the man they put in to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world is 10 years past his prime and has a training philosophy that can be summed up in one sentence: “Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet on it.”

Public starved for entertainment

Of course, some folks are concerned that Foreman’s age, weight and track record will make this a slow fight:

ROUND 1: Foreman walks in circles, avoids heavy lifting.

ROUND 2: Foreman throws a punch, sighs, begins to salivate.

ROUND 3: Canceled for food break.

ROUND 4: Foreman walks in circles. . . .

But of course, by that point, it will be too late. You will have paid your $35 for pay-per-view. And boxing will have sucked another fortune from a public only slightly more hungry for entertainment than Foreman is for a roast beef on rye.

And so you ask, why am I here? And I am wondering the same thing. Curiosity? Boredom? Who knows?

What do we say to the people who moan that an event like this will ruin boxing? That Foreman’s stepping into the ring is the biggest hoax since Milli Vanilli stepped to a microphone?

Relax. The whole sport is a joke. Has been for years. Might as well grab a laugh while you can.

Or as Foreman might say:

If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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