- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2014

Marc Ratner saw some of the greatest boxing moments of the past 30 years during his time with the Nevada State Athletic Commission from 1985 to 2006.

But he never saw anything like he did 20 years ago — the night of Nov. 5, 1994, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena — when George Foreman, at the age of 45, regained the heavyweight championship of the world.

“That was a remarkable moment, maybe the greatest I’ve ever seen in boxing,” said Ratner, who was the commission’s executive director from 1992 to 2006 until he resigned to take a position as vice president with UFC. “I’ve never been in an arena that loud.”

Neither have I.

Maybe it was because the sold-out crowd of 12,000 had been put to sleep by the first nine rounds of the fight between Foreman and World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion Michael Moorer.

Moorer dominated the action, winning seven of the nine rounds on the judges’ scorecards, and appeared on his way to a win.

But then George Foreman nailed Moorer with one of the most beautiful short right hands you’ll ever see. Moorer hit the canvas, and was frozen there, as referee Joe Cortez counted 10.

The arena was so loud it was as if it lifted off the ground. I sat down to quickly pound out a story I didn’t expect to write, and my hands were shaking.

“That night was spiritual,” said Roy Foreman, George’s brother who worked in his corner that night.

Still vivid in my mind is George going over to his corner while the arena is in a frenzy, kneeling down to pray, and his cornermen — Angelo Dundee, who was in the corner of Muhammad Ali nearly 20 years earlier to the day when Ali took the title from Foreman in Zaire — and Roy Foreman jumping in the ring to form a wall of protection around George while he knelt in his corner.

“He never did anything like that before,” Roy Foreman said. “He had made a promise to God that if this moment had come, he would get on his knees and thank God. I jumped in the ring and stood behind him to make sure no one bothered him.”

Before that, George had told his brother in the dressing room that no matter how bad the fight was going, don’t worry. “In the last few minutes before we went out into the ring, when we were having a corner management meeting, George told us, ‘I don’t care what happens. I got this guy no matter what is going on. Don’t worry, don’t panic, I’m going to get this guy.’”

Roy said his confidence in his brother’s claim was shaky as the fight went on. “Round six, round seven, round eight, I’m thinking, ‘Okay George, when are you going to get this guy?’” Roy remembered, laughing. “But if you look at the end of the eighth round, George hit him with a right hand to the body and a hook, a pow-pow combination. You could see he was hurt, that his legs were gone. He was jabbing, but not moving. Those shots at the end of the eighth round took his legs away from him.”

Two rounds later, Foreman finished the job — and made history as the oldest fighter to ever hold the heavyweight championship.

“It seemed like slow motion,” Roy said. “It seemed like it took 30 minutes for Michael to hit the canvas and start the count. He raised his head, but his body was frozen, and I knew he wasn’t going to get up. Those shots to the body had affected him. His legs were gone. He couldn’t move.”

Roy then remembers comedian Robert Einstein — Super Dave Osborne, who had become a friend of George’s and had him on his show often — trying to get into the ring as chaos reigned. Pete Rose, Magic Johnson and others tried to get into the dressing room after the fight. “I was trying to keep order, but it was crazy,” Roy said. “After the fight, it was all a blur.”

Here is what I remember after the fight. At the post-fight press conference, lawyer Henry Holmes proudly carried around the boxing gloves Foreman used to make history. Holmes was the attorney who forced the World Boxing Association in court to give Foreman the shot at Moorer.

“Look, George gave me the gloves,” Holmes said, beaming, to anyone who would listen.

While it may have been a spiritual night, Foreman knew it was also business — and that the biggest punch in this fight had been landed in a courtroom.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com

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