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In a room nearby, Foreman repaired, with needle and thread, a tear in his old protective cup. With him were Archie Moore, his 77-year-old trainer, and cut-man Angelo Dundee, 68, Ali's former trainer. Moore is the oldest man ever to fight for a heavyweight title; he was 13 days from his 43rd birthday when Floyd Patterson knocked him out in 1956. His equipment repaired, Foreman wrapped his own hands. The three men talked about other fighters, other fights.
When it was time to enter the ring, Foreman wrapped his upper body with a white towel and donned an old red terry cloth robe. He draped another black robe over his massive shoulders.
The undefeated Holyfield arrived wearing a short white satin robe and a smug expression. He is not an arrogant man, but he had heard all the fat jokes, and, after all, how long could a 42-year-old roly-poly last against fists that had KO'd their last 12 opponents—including all the heavyweights Holyfield had fought since moving up from the cruiserweight division? Only four of 25 men had gone the distance against Holyfield, and three of those were in his first five bouts.
Armchair strategists had predicted that the fleet Holyfield would box Foreman from a distance. They were wrong. "Out there, he kills you," Lou Duva, Holy-field's adviser, had warned his fighter. Before the introductions, Duva led Holyfield to the center of the ring and pointed down. "Make believe this is the Budweiser circle," he whispered.
At his camp, Holyfield trained in a ring with a four-foot wide Budweiser logo in the center. He had been instructed to fight within that circle; his trainers wanted him that close to Foreman. They wanted Holyfield punching because Foreman, when he's under attack, crosses his tree trunk arms in front of his head and upper body. "When he's hiding, he ain't hitting," said George Benton, Holyfield's main strategist.
Holyfield came out hard, circling as ordered, jabbing, hammering Foreman up and down. It didn't look good for the challenger, who seemed able to move in only one direction: forward. In Holyfield's corner, after the first round, Benton told the champion to jab more. On the other side of the ring, Charley Shipes, Foreman's chief trainer, told his man the same thing. "When he throws that little hook," said Shipes, "he's made for your jab."
In the second, Foreman used his quick, sledgehammer jab to get Holyfield in trouble early. A jab snapped Holyfield's head back, and Foreman caught him on the head with two clubbing rights. As Holyfield tried to close in, Foreman drove him back with a forearm to the throat. Foreman the preacher fights like a dock-worker. Referee Rudy Battle warned him repeatedly about hitting low, hitting with his elbows, rabbit punching and the ungentlemanly use of his ham-sized forearms—none of which was done in anger. In the 11th round, Battle would take a point away from Foreman for a low blow.
After Foreman's big second round, Holyfield began to nullify Foreman's jab with a good right-hand counter to the head, and soon, despite urging from his corner, Foreman threw the jab less often. It would cost him; the jab is the one weapon Foreman still throws like a young man.
Undaunted by Holyfield's punches, Foreman continued to press his slow but relentless attack. Holyfield hammered him hard, and still he came. Foreman found the champion with crushing blows, but none solidly to the jaw and never more than one at a time. Near the end of the third, a hook staggered Foreman, and Holyfield swarmed in behind a 15-shot volley and a head butt. Unsuccessful in an attempt to grab Holyfield, Foreman cut short the assault with a hook high on the champion's protective cup. Trudging back to his corner, where he refused to sit, Foreman appeared spent.
Late in the fifth, Foreman, under attack, hurt Holyfield with a hook to the head. A big right hand just missed the champion's head, but another hook bounced him off the ropes. Foreman moved in, pounding Holyfield with both hands. All the punches hurt, yet none found the right target, the chin.