Emanuel Steward, trainer of Thomas Hearns, among others, is similarly disgusted. On hand for the latest of Foreman's fights, a two-round TKO of Bert Cooper on June 1, he said, "A traveling road show. It just proves, you keep something out there long enough and the people will start to believe. Never in the history of boxing have there been so many handpicked bums."
Foreman has been choosy about his opponents—to a fault, some say. Bob Arum promoted some of his early fights but grew frustrated when Foreman began nixing possible opponents. Arum had a fight made for Foreman and Anders Ecklund. "But lo and behold." says Arum, "he said Ecklund was too tough. Hits too hard."
Arum got to like Foreman, actually; here was a fighter who would book economy for a flight to an ESPN fight and then upgrade with his own money. But after a while it became clear that Foreman was not going to stand for any competition on his way to a blockbuster fight. Arum dropped him.
Foreman defends his choice of opponents by saying he has had to start from the ground up, so of course he would have to take it easy. "I didn't come back and say, I want the Cadillac in the window," he says. Not right away. "Anyway, I heard this same stuff the first time I came up."
Yet men more pragmatic than Arum have come to accept a Foreman-Tyson fight as inevitable. Dan Duva, who promotes Evander Holyfield, came nosing around one of Foreman's fights. Would he be interested in Foreman as an opponent? "Sure." Because Foreman is for real? "I make no editorial comment about George Foreman's abilities," he said, laughing. "But this is the biggest fight out there."
There are other elements to the Foreman scenario. Rick Kulis, who distributes the pay-per-view on the West Coast for big fights, says, first, there are very few opponents left for Tyson. "And Foreman represents the old guard, when you had clear-cut champions. He also represents the link to, you could say, integrity, when a champion was a champion outside the ring as well. And he's one of about four fighters independent of Don King."
The people who will have to sell this fight will not overlook Foreman's evangelical calling, especially as it plays against Tyson's bad-boy image. A story line never hurts the promotion.
"I used to think that George would have to fight a Top 10 guy." says Kulis. "But it looks like George was right. He knew they'd eventually have to come back to him if he remained unhurt and undefeated. As it looks like there is no one out there to take on Tyson, the feeling becomes more and more. Why not George?"
Because of Foreman's style and size—he is 6'3" to Tyson's 5'11"—there are some who believe that he is the one man made to topple Tyson. Trainer Angelo Dundee says, "I give him a shot, because George Foreman is devastating against short guys. I'm open-minded. I can be showed."
Then, too, there is a school of thought that says Tyson's list of victims is no more impressive than Foreman's is.