Lee Groves

10: Greatest one-punch finishes

4. George Foreman KO 10 Michael Moorer – Nov. 5, 1994, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nev.

 

It had been nearly 17 months since boxing fans last saw “Big George” in the ring and the memories weren’t exactly pleasant. Tommy Morrison won the vacant WBO heavyweight title by sticking and moving instead of plugging and slugging, and the final result was a lopsided decision for “The Duke.” Many had good reason to believe that Foreman’s quest to regain the world heavyweight title had come to an end, but the fighter himself still thought he could wrangle one last chance – but only when the time was right.

After Michael Moorer won the WBA and IBF belts from Evander Holyfield in April 1994 Foreman sprung to action. He figured Moorer’s management would behave like most who have newly crowned titlists in their employ – secure a low-risk, high-reward first defense. Knowing he still carried mass appeal Foreman approached promoter Bob Arum and HBO’s Seth Abraham about a potential fight with Moorer. At first both men resisted but the verbal skills that charmed audiences during his seven-year comeback combined with the financial logic behind the match helped cement an agreement.

At the beginning of the HBO telecast Foreman recited the lyrics from the “Man of La Mancha” song “The Impossible Dream” and in many ways his pursuit was as unlikely as Don Quixote’s. At 45 years 310 days, Foreman was more than eight years the senior of Jersey Joe Walcott, the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight title, and while he never lost his enormous power his foot speed was glacially slow.

If the ravages of age weren’t enough of a stumbling block, there was the matter of his opponent. Moorer, a natural right hander who fought out of the southpaw stance, carried a 35-0 (30) record, was one of a handful of men who achieved the light heavyweight/heavyweight championship double and possessed a meat cleaver jab that carved faces and sapped spirits.

Knowing the challenge that awaited him, Foreman trained as hard as a man his age could and came in at a relatively slim 250. Moorer, though thoroughly prepared physically and psychologically by trainer Teddy Atlas, nevertheless scaled 222, eight pounds heavier than for the Holyfield fight.

Wearing the same red trunks with blue trim that he wore during his “Rumble in the Jungle” loss to Muhammad Ali more than two decades earlier, Foreman was a profound sentimental favorite, so much so that the odds against “Big George” were a surprisingly low 2-to-1.

For most of the first nine rounds, the MGM Grand crowd that fervently hoped that Foreman’s miracle would come true instead bore witness to a one-sided boxing lesson. Moorer’s jabs swelled Foreman’s eyes by round six and he easily avoided most of the challenger’s lunging blows. Foreman was 45 going on 55 and with each passing round his hopes for redemption were fading away.

But even as Moorer banked rounds on the scorecards Atlas, ever the master psychologist, realized Foreman’s determination and one-punch knockout ability still presented a mortal threat. More than once Atlas warned his charge about the one punch that could erase all the good work Moorer had done to this point — Foreman’s cannon-like right cross.

Foreman continued to eat jabs throughout the middle rounds and entering the 10th Jerry Roth and Chuck Giampa had Moorer ahead 88-83 (Duane Ford had Moorer up by only 86-85). Those scores confirmed what Foreman already knew going into the fight — he needed a knockout to win.

Shortly before the two-minute mark of the 10th round Foreman hit Moorer with a one-two to the forehead that made the champion pause and retreat a step. That’s all Foreman needed to pull the trigger again, and this time he scored the bull’s eye of a lifetime. The needle-sharp right struck the point of Moorer’s chin and in the blink of an eye he was flat on his back.

The crowd’s ear-splitting roar could be heard outside the arena and it grew even louder as it became clear that Moorer wouldn’t be able to rise. Seconds after referee Joe Cortez finished the count with Moorer on all fours, Foreman himself was on his knees. As he thanked his Maker, Foreman knew that the ghosts of Kinshasha were finally gone and for the first time in 20 years Big George felt whole again.

“It happened!” HBO’s Jim Lampley screamed. “It happened!

With one historic blow, Foreman had quieted all of the doubters. Moreover, he completely demolished the bounds of what athletes could hope to achieve at very advanced ages. Many athletes tried to duplicate Foreman’s feats and some of them – Bernard Hopkins being one – found ways to succeed. But Foreman’s feat will forever stand alone as a beacon of joy, inspiration and possibility.

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