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A fight for the ages brings out the jokesters

SHARE A fight for the ages brings out the jokesters

The fax said the news conference was to announce the Fight of the Century.

George Foreman vs. Larry Holmes."Does that mean the 19th century?" someone wondered at a news conference Wednesday to formally announce the match.

Of course, the two former heavyweight champions aren't that old. Foreman will be only 13 days past his 50th birthday if the fight happens as announced on Jan. 23 at a site to be determined. Holmes will be merely 49.

Maybe it should be called the Fight of 99 Years.

Some people think it should be called off.

"It's the Eighth Wonder of the World," said Foreman, who has fought at weights making him resemble the Great Pyramid but who says he will weigh a svelte 227-235 pounds.

He sounded like a commercial for a "George Foreman mean fat-reducing grilling machine." He hasn't weighed 235 pounds since 1988, and he hasn't fought at under 230 since he weighed 229 in 1977.

"This fight will lead the nation, the whole world, into the next millennium," said Foreman, sounding like a publicist, which he has been for himself, since he ended a 10-year retirement in 1987. "It will show the 40s (in age) don't mean anything."

The 40s, however, do mean something in boxing. Fortunately, in this case, it's one old fighter against another. It's selling nostalgia. If just antique collectors pay to see it in person on pay-per-view, the fight could do well financially.

Advertisements for the fight should state: "Buyer, beware."

On sale is not a match between two of the best heavyweights of the second half of the 20th century. On the other hand, it's not a meeting of two con artists, either.

Sure, Foreman is supposed to get $10 million and Holmes $4 million, but it's also a matchup of two men who want to do what they want to do.

"It's pride, a lot of pride," Holmes said. "George doesn't want to go out there and lose and get beat up. He wants to win. Same thing with me."

Call it pride or maybe just ego in an ego-fueled profession. Old ego is not different from young ego, just possibly more risky.

Foreman and Holmes, however, have risked embarrassment and injury for much of their lives. Their pro boxing careers have totaled 142 fights and 38 years.

They are professional fighters, Holmes perhaps more so now than Foreman. Big George, of course, has always fought to win, but he also has used the sport since his comeback in 1977 to become a middle-aged folk hero and a big commercial success.

Holmes, while financially set, has always seemed to be chasing a goal he already has achieved, that of being accepted as a great fighter.