Photo by Holly Stein/Allsport
“Crowd goes nuts after Foreman lands a pawing right hand. They’re hoping!” Jim Lampley, seated at ringside calling Round 4 live for HBO, was well aware that the packed house inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was firmly behind the challenger.
“Big” George continued to pump his long left jab and tried to follow it with a chopping, sledgehammer right hand. The crowd, hoping against hope, knew that the ageless Foreman had not fought in 17 months. Now 45, they moaned and groaned every time he came close to connecting clean.
On Saturday night, November 5, George Foreman (72-4, 67 KOs) was challenging WBA and IBF Heavyweight champion Michael Moorer (35-0, 30 KOs). The bout was scheduled for 12 Rounds.
The year was 1994.
Billed as “One for the Ages,” a 250-pound Foreman owned a 28-pound weight advantage over the champion. He was also 19-years his elder. Larry Merchant would note, “George has sweat socks older than Moorer.” Odds makers had Foreman as a 2-1 betting underdog on fight night.
After losing the Heavyweight crown to Muhammad Ali in 1974, Foreman would step away from the ring in 1977. After a 10-year hiatus, he launched a comeback, winning 24 consecutive bouts. It wasn’t until April of 1991 with a unanimous-decision loss to Evander Holyfield that Foreman would taste defeat again.
Moorer, 26, was making the first defense of his newly acquired Heavyweight crown. It was just seven months prior, in April, that he defeated Holyfield via a majority decision.
After winning the Light Heavyweight title, Moorer had leaped to the Heavyweight division in 1991. Ironically, his first bout as a Heavyweight was on the Holyfield-Foreman undercard.
The first man ever to win the Heavyweight title as a southpaw, the undefeated Moorer could punch with authority. He could also take a punch and come back fighting. He had been down four times, yet rose on each occasion to score impressive wins.
On this night, Foreman, the No. 8 ranked challenger, was looking at what was more than likely his last chance at a title. The catastrophic punching power, the last thing that leaves a fighter, still remained largely intact.
As George Benton warned, “If he catches you clean you’ll be the deadest S.O.B. in the cemetery.”
Big George entered the ring wearing red trunks with blue and white trim. Those who speculated that Foreman was still trying to exercise the ghost of Ali felt vindicated when Foreman entered the arena wearing the same trunks that he wore against Ali that fateful night in Zaire.
The pro-Foreman crowd roared during his entrance and introduction. Moorer’s arrival was a bit more subdued, accompanied by what could be described as polite applause. Most in the MGM Grand were looking for a Foreman miracle.
Lampley, Merchant, and Gil Clancy were seated ringside to call the blow-by-blow action.
The early rounds saw Foreman following Moorer, arms crossed in front of him, looking to land right hand bombs behind his left jab. Moorer clearly had the faster hands and faster feet, moving side to side and popping Foreman with a snappy right jab.
In Round 3, Lampley summed up the early action. “[Moorer] much quicker getting his punches away than George, that’s no surprise.”
Moorer’s trainer Teddy Atlas liked what he was seeing. He asked Moorer to keep the pace quick and to move to his right, not his left, in an effort to take steam off Foreman’s thunderous right hands.
Moorer was undoubtedly controlling the early action. The crowd, trying to lift Foreman, began chanting, “George! George! George! George!”
With very few clinches, referee Joe Cortez simply circled the two as they exchanged leather. While both men stood toe to toe, Foreman looked to seize the moment.
Lampley wailed, “Moorer allowing Foreman to land and the big man is getting off to good effect in Round 6. George’s blows appear to be the heavier shots now!”
Moorer weathered the thunder and, true to form, fired back. Lampley continued, “That’s the price George can pay when he opens up. Solid right hand by Moorer. Foreman’s left eye beginning to close.”
The bell sounded to end the sixth. Merchant quickly opined, “A good round at any age.”
With seven rounds in the books, swelling and a mouse was now developing under Foreman’s left eye. Trainer Angelo Dundee got right to the point, “You alright George? You sure?” As Foreman nodded, Dundee exuded confidence, “Alright, dynamite! That’s all I want to hear!”
Rounds 8 and 9 saw Moorer continuing to slide to his right while continuing to pop his powerful right jab, repeatedly snapping Foreman’s head back. The challenger’s activity level was dropping while his eye was swelling.
Then came Round 10.
Moorer was now much more comfortable standing flat footed in front of Foreman. His eyes focused on Foreman as he fired left hands and uppercuts. The two again traded bombs as Foreman stumbled, off balance, while flailing at the champion. He was desperately trying to land the big punch, the one big haymaker.
Clancy saw that Foreman was off balance, “George is so tired though Jim, if he misses a punch he goes completely off balance. I give him all the credit in the world, but, again, he’s a 45-year-old man in a young man’s game.”
Just as Clancy finished his thought, Moorer stepped to his left. Foreman stepped forward and pumped a hard left jab into Moorer’s face, blinding him just long enough to land a crushing right hand. The impact of the punch thundered throughout ringside.
Moorer stepped back as Foreman again stepped forward and repeated the combination, left jab, sledgehammer right hand. The second combination sent Moorer crashing to the canvas, arms outstretched over his head. Motionless and flat on his back, Moorer gazed up at the ring lights hanging overhead.
Photo by John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty
Lampley went ballistic, “Down goes Moorer on a right hand! An unbelievably close in right hand shot. It happened! It happened!”
Not a soul was sitting inside the MGM Grand. The arena had gone bananas as referee Joe Cortez reached the count of 10. While Moorer rolled to his hands and knees, Foreman knelt in prayer his corner, savoring the moment. Clancy was in awe, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”
At 2:03 of Round 10, George Foreman was the new Heavyweight champion of the world. In the process he became the oldest man to win the most prestigious prize in sports, the Heavyweight championship.
Moorer, now sitting upright, had a severely swollen lip with blood welling in his mouth. He rose to his feet and graciously found Foreman to offer a hug and congratulations.
The fight was named “Knockout of the Year” and “Comeback of the Year” by The Ring Magazine.
Big George had fulfilled his dream, proving once and for all that dreams do come true.