Let's talk about a fighter of yesterday.
Now everybody remembers old Cassius Clay.
You may say Ali is good
If you feel you should,
But if he got me in the ring and asked my name,
Why, that poor boy would die of shame."
The sun had gone behind the barren hills among which the college is set—hills that disconcerted Foreman's teammate David (Baby) Vasquez, a flyweight from New York. "The sad and lonely hills," he had reflected the previous day. "All they do is stand there. They look bored."
"I'm a man, and if anyone has any doubts please feel free to ask me about them," Foreman went on, "but don't say I'm bragging. I'm just a young man trying to make a name for myself. I speak better than I box, but it's a proven fact that George can hit."
Indeed, Foreman is a relatively crude and inexperienced fighter. He has only been fighting a year and a half and has had a mere 19 bouts, winning 16, 11 by knockout. Foreman, who is from Houston, began boxing in the Job Corps, which he joined in 1965; he had dropped out of school in the ninth grade and, as he says, "got in the wrong line." The Job Corps sent him to a conservation center in Grants Pass, Ore. "I preserved the forest and the trees," he says. "We learned bricklaying and how to build houses. Building a house is an experience I'll never forget. But there weren't any soul folk where I was. You have certain wants. In the Job Corps you lose contact with the world. Everything in the center is right. You forget that things in the world are wrong."
From Grants Pass, Foreman went to an urban center in Pleasanton, Calif., where he studied electronics and got the equivalent of a high school diploma. But when he went back to Houston he was unable to find a job. "I would like to say the reason was prejudice," he says, "but I have no proof. The employment agency would send me on a job and when I got there there would be no opening. I almost got discouraged, but I had a taste of success in the Job Corps and it was hard to get rid of it."
Foreman ultimately returned to Pleasanton as an avocational instructor in the corps. "Boxing is a real challenge," he says, "but I have bigger goals, like going to college. If no one had taken notice of me I'd have gone down the drain. I want to be qualified to catch others before they go down."
However, at the moment Foreman is trying to learn how to box. For example, to his amazement he has discovered that he can throw a mighty left jab. "I've found myself with weapons I wasn't aware of," he says. "I've been told I can win a fight with a left jab!" He could at that. In his final elimination bout in Albuquerque last month Foreman knocked his opponent down with a jab.
"I'm not concentrating on slugging so much," Foreman says. "International rules represent thinking. They represent a less brutal sport."
The main reason U.S. boxers haven't fared as well as they should have in past Olympics is that they have failed to observe these rules and have been penalized or disqualified. Moreover, they haven't truly understood the nature of the sport. Boxing under international rules is very much like fencing; each properly delivered blow that lands in a prescribed area is of equal value no matter what its force. By and large, the fighter who lands the most punches wins, unless, of course, there is a knockout, but no extra credit is given for a knockdown. The rules that are most antithetical to our fighters are: 1) a blow must land with the knuckles part of the closed glove; 2) the hands must be in advance of the head at all times; 3) ducking below the belt line is prohibited; 4) a blow is illegal if at any point in its delivery the glove passes below the belt line; 5) overhand swings are illegal; 6) lying on, wrestling, holding, locking and spinning are not permitted; and 7) a passive, double-cover defense � la Archie Moore is prohibited.
Fortunately the team that arrived in Mexico City this week includes a number of boxers who have international experience, most notably Light Welterweight James Wallington Jr. and Light Heavyweight Arthur Redden, both of whom won gold medals in the 1967 Pan-American Games, and Harlan (Baby Cakes) Marbley, who will be competing in a new Olympic division, the 106-pound, or light flyweight, class. All three have good chances for medals, particularly Marbley, who has a record of 189 and 5, a tattoo on his left forearm depicting a skunk sniffing a flower ("That's me," he says, "the little stinker") and owns 24 medallions, 40 pairs of gaudy slacks and 12 pairs of shoes. According to Featherweight Albert Robinson, the reason Marbley has comparatively few shoes is that "he ain't heavy enough to wear them out."