EXACTLY 30-years ago today, an unlikely heavyweight comeback was well underway. In fact, on this day, a quarter of a century ago, there were two unlikely heavyweight comebacks being observed – and what’s more the two come-backing heavies were about to run right into each other.
Caesars Palace in Atlantic City was the venue, and a forty-something George Foreman faced a thirty-something Gerry Cooney in a fascinating (if much maligned) clash that was dubbed “Two Geezers at Caesars.” That tagline first appeared, I believe, in the late Bert Sugar’s excellent Boxing Illustrated magazine, yet a better tagline might have been “Punchers Collide.” For whatever shortcomings the returning duo that was Foreman and Cooney might have had, hitting incredibly hard was not one of them. The match-up sure caught the interest of the fans – hence the 12, 581 paying fans in attendance and the many more hundreds of thousands who had parted with some pay-per-view dollars to watch the 50-50 affair on TV.
Foreman, the former heavyweight king who was 19-0(18) on his ridiculed comeback, wanted a shot at the current champ, an invincible-looking Mike Tyson – a heavyweight who was currently enjoying the kind of reputation Foreman himself had experienced almost two full decades ago, when nobody thought he would ever lose – and he thought that a win over the big and dangerous Cooney would help persuade the fans he was worthy of a crack at regaining the title he’d originally won by annihilating Joe Frazier. “It’s time to make Tyson shiver,” George said when asked why he’d departed from his safer than safe diet of feasting on cruiserweights, this mode of fighting having served Foreman well when it came to ridding himself of rust from 1987 through 1989.