I Still Say, By George

By Johnathan Lee Iverson on April 15, 2019
I Still Say, By George
No amount of jovial hijinks, burgers, or endorsement deals would ever quench that fire.

For all the tremendous challenges that should have ended his career, the fact still remains, no one’s punching Tiger in the face…

America loves a comeback. It’s wired into the very consciousness of the nation. Many might not know it now with the harsh rhetoric surrounding immigration as of late, but second chances are what the United States does best. Those of us privileged to be citizens of what Ronald Reagan often called, The City On A Hill, knows an immigrant tale or two. Those stories of hardship and impossible odds in far off lands, devoid of the liberties that are not merely the cornerstone of the United States, but an extended hand of promise to the tired…poor…huddled masses yearning to be free, offering a new beginning, a chance to rewrite the destiny of one’s own existence and perhaps, that of generations to follow. America is the greatest facilitator of the comeback in the history of the world.

This would explain the unanimous well wishes and jubilation that erupted across the sports world and on social media for golf legend, Tiger Woods. Few athletes had ever experienced such an epic fall from grace. Plagued by personal scandals, health issues, and professional setbacks, the once lauded mega-star of the sport roared back to claim his first major title in 11 years—none other than, the Masters, the heavyweight championship of the golf world, his first in 14 years. For a competitor such as he, having endured the doubters and haters who had all but written him off as a has-been, such a triumph could not have been sweeter. We can expect to see him make his rounds, his victory lap if you will, across all spectrums of media, probably serving up some healthy sized portions of crow for all those vitriolic talking heads.

However, as these things tend to do, the inevitable hyperbole becomes attached to them. After all, people love a good story. We can almost be certain that someone somewhere will declare Woods’ Masters victory to be the greatest comeback in modern sports history. It’s the high resulting from the exhilaration of a tremendous moment in sports; and that it was, without a shadow of a doubt, a great comeback story, with all the trimmings. Yet, I seem to recall a story of significant magnitude that shook the world merely three years before Tiger Woods would capture his first Masters title and become the sports king of the world.

November 5, 1994—undefeated heavyweight champion Michael Moorer would face-off against the one and only, George Foreman. Prior to his encounter with Moorer, the once feared former heavyweight champion had already made a comeback of sorts. Gone was the surly and menacing, afro-clad juggernaut, who mauled the awesome Joe Frazier and nearly decapitated the powerful Ken Norton, the George Foreman who reemerged, on his second comeback attempt at 38 years old, was America’s favorite jolly ‘ole, burger chugging “uncle” with cement blocks for hands. He was a press agent’s dream and as everyone knows, it paid off richly or as the Good Book, which became a stable in the life of the boxer turned ordained minister would say, his cup runneth over. For seven years he’d toil as nothing more than boxing’s and perhaps the sports world’s favorite personality, not to be taken seriously as an opponent, though in 1991, he’d give a credible accounting of himself against then-heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield. Yet, whatever the experts might have thought about him or however entertained fans were by him, George Foreman was still a fighter and a fearsome champion, once upon a time. No amount of jovial hijinks, burgers, or endorsement deals would ever quench that fire. Foreman was after redemption. That fated morning in Zaire on October 30, 1974 haunted him. His defeat at the hands of Muhammad Ali, not only lifted his beloved title belt from him, but severely shattered whatever sense of identity he thought he had, sending his life into an abysmal tail spin. Like Tiger Woods, George Foreman would endure the personal scandals, health scares, and professional setbacks, including a short-lived comeback in 1976, which following a loss to Jimmy Young, a former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali, Foreman would retreat into a proverbial hibernation for a decade.

“Boxing is the sport to which all other sports aspire,” George Foreman once said. For all the greatness of Tiger Woods, and he is great. For all the tremendous challenges that should have ended his career, the fact still remains, Tiger swings a stick; no one’s punching him in the face. This in no way diminishes what Tiger Woods accomplished this past weekend at 43 years of age, no less. It was the stuff of legend. It was spectacular and he is deserving of all the praise due him, especially when we consider all the condemnation he’s had to endure for the last decade. However, due to the very nature of prize fighting, the peril and stakes for George Foreman as he entered that ring on November 5, 1994 to face Michael Moorer, exactly two decades removed from that morning in Zaire, this time a decided underdog, written off by every expert and talking head of the sport, were far and exceedingly much higher, thus making his shocking knockout victory of Michael Moorer the more epic. It remains the greatest comeback story in all of sports and George Foreman was 45 years old.

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  1. Your Name 12:28pm, 04/24/2019

    Man Foreman had heavy hands phew!!!

  2. tlig 08:02am, 04/17/2019

    George would have redeemed himself a lot sooner had Ali not actively avoided the rematch.

  3. Pete The Sneak 12:22pm, 04/15/2019

    I’m not really much of a gambler, but that was one of the few times I ever gambled and ended up winning a fistful of cash betting on Foreman. George knew from the get-go that Moorer was tailor-made for him. Moorer was a good fighter, but lacked focus, particularly once he thought he had you beaten. He put a pretty good whipping on Big George throughout most of those rounds, but George knew that would make him overconfident and just needed him to stay close enough for him to eventually unleash his ‘Burger-troid’ (big right hand). I agree, it was indeed a hell of an accomplishment and one of the Greatest comeback stories ever…Peace.

  4. RICK 12:20pm, 04/15/2019

    Re Johnathan’s article:

    Jimmy Young— not Jimmy Ellis.

    Also, when George later fought Jimmy Ellis, it was a DIFFERENT Jimmy Ellis than the former champ and Ali sparring partner.

    Rick Kaletsky
    203/393-2323

  5. 30 Days In The Hole 11:32am, 04/15/2019

    Oops. Meant to type Gordie Howe, instead of Bobby Hull. Right airport, wrong plane.

  6. 30 Days In The Hole 11:22am, 04/15/2019

    Golf is barely a sport. It should be grouped together with “sports” like darts, bowling, and pool. Big George takes this one easily, even over REAL athletes like George Blanda, Nolan Ryan and Bobby Hull. Hell, Willie Shoemaker was riding horses when he was an “old guy” and that is certainly more of an achievement than playing golf.

  7. Robert 10:57am, 04/15/2019

    Big George’s comeback was as epic as any in American sports—and I believe greater than Tigers;given the type of sport, the long layoff and George’s age—and I am pretty sure that George lost to Jimmy Young, not Jimmy Ellis. Thank you for an excellent perspective on comebacks!!

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