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Foreman leaving boxing to the youngsters

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George Foreman walked away from boxing, and left them laughing.

Foreman, who will turn 49 on Jan. 10, announced his retirement following his majority decision loss to 25-year-old Shannon Briggs that was greeted with jeers and catcalls."I'm walking away," said the puncher with a paunch, who defied time for a decade and made an indelible mark in a young man's sport. "This could go on for the rest of my life, chasing young guys. Young guys should be chasing young guys."

In 1994, at age 45, Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in history by knocking out Michael Moorer in the 10th round for the WBA and IBF titles.

Asked if he thought anybody would break that record, Foreman said, "If some guy breaks it, I'm coming back."

Then, in his best carnival barker's voice, he added, "I'm the last of the bearded ladies. Step right up."

Almost everybody but two judges thought Foreman won the 12-round fight Saturday night.

"They said Shannon Briggs won," Foreman said. "Good luck to him.

"I'm not bitter about anything."

Said Briggs: "He had the crowd behind him, and that's why they reacted like they did."

The reactions of most of 5,220 fans at the Trump Taj Mahal were those of dismay and anger. Ringside reporters were virtually unanimous in thinking Foreman won.

Foreman, all 260 pounds of him, pressed Briggs throughout. Briggs' movement and jab might have given him an edge, or at least had him even, after eight rounds. But Foreman appeared to control the last four rounds with punishing jabs and hard rights to the head. He hurt his 227-pound opponent in the 10th round and rocked him a few times in the last round.

Judge Steve Weisfeld, who called the fight even at 114-114, gave Foreman three of the last four rounds. Calvin Claxton, who favored Briggs 116-114, gave Briggs three of the last four rounds. Larry Layton, who scored it 117-113 for Briggs, gave Briggs the seventh and eighth rounds and called each of the last two rounds even.

The AP scored it 116-112 for Foreman, favoring him in each of the last four rounds.

Despite the loss, Roy Foreman said his brother's accomplishments were incredible.

"This has been one of the great achievements in history, in life or in sports," he said.

That might have been laying it on a bit thick, but Foreman's career unquestionably is one of the most remarkable in sports history.

A street tough in Houston, Foreman won the heavyweight gold medal at the 1968 Olympics at Mexico City. He turned pro in 1969, became undisputed world champion by stopping Joe Frazier in the second round on Jan. 22, 1973, at Kingston, Jamaica, and lost the title to Muhammad Ali when he was stopped in the eighth round Oct. 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, the capital of what was then Zaire.

After being outpointed by Jimmy Young on March 17, 1977, at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Foreman said he had a vision and he retired to become an evangelist in Houston.

He sounded like the Rev. Foreman early Sunday when he said, "I hope that nice young man (Briggs) doesn't smoke and doesn't drink. He should go forth and lead a good life."

In 1987, Foreman began a comeback, he said, to raise $100,000 for his youth center. He has earned more than $100 million in purses and endorsements. His purse Saturday night was $5 million. Briggs got $400,000.

The Foreman who retired in 1977 often was a scowling, menacing man. The one who came back in 1987 did so with a smile and quip, especially about his waistline and love for cheeseburgers. He became a middle-aged folk hero, especially after he went the distance in losing to Evander Holyfield in a bid for the undisputed championship in 1991 at Atlantic City.

Foreman fought his way back for a title shot and cashed in by knocking out Moorer. He won a controversial decision over Axel Schulz in 1995 at Las Vegas before he was stripped of the titles for not fighting opponents designated by the WBA and IBF.

In the Moorer fight, Foreman's age started to show. He was far behind when he scored the knockout. After the Schulz match, he needed 12 rounds to beat Crawford Grimsley and then eked out a split decision against Lou Savarese. He looked old against Briggs, too. An old winner.

"I'm happy, I'm not hurt," Foreman said.

And a lot people in boxing are happy as well, happy that Foreman has finally retired.

"I've had a wonderful career," he said.

Amen!