It was a short, sneaky right hand, traveling six inches from start to finish before derailing one career while miraculously salvaging another.
George Foreman threw the right hand almost 11 years ago, quickly turning what had been a one-sided heavyweight title fight into a history lesson. Michael Moorer had been dodging bullets all night, staying just ahead of the posse that was disguised as a straight right from Foreman, a 45-year-old preacher quickly closing in on 46.
For the better part of 10 rounds, it was all Moorer, reminding Foreman that you can’t sweat off age like you can pounds. Slow and plodding, Foreman was like a clumsy giant trying to snatch a fly out of the air with his fist. And Moorer just kept buzzing away, throwing punches at the old man while staying just out of reach of Foreman‘s cocked right hand.
And then Foreman, needing a knockout to win, suddenly threw the right – pulled the trigger – and Moorer was caught standing in the line of fire, eyes wide open, feet failing to move, heart in his throat.
Moorer went down in what seemed like slow-motion, finally resting on his back, blinking up at the lights. And suddenly, everything changed in the heavyweight division. The new WBA and IBF heavyweight champion of the world was a bald-headed, middle-aged pitchman who had returned to the game following a 10-year trip into the gospel.
And that’s what I remember most about Michael Moorer, that right hand of Foreman’s. It’s not fair to remember him best for the time he got knocked out, but it’s the memory I’m stuck with.
So when Moorer served as the in-studio guest analyst on the recent ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, I immediately thought of George Foreman. And when Moorer started talking to his former trainer, Teddy Atlas, I remembered how animated Atlas would get in his fighter’s corner when Moorer didn’t fight to his potential.
“I’m thinking of coming back to fight again,” said Moorer, who was changing his mind after announcing his retirement this past April. “I miss it. My game plan would be to win the heavyweight title again.”
But Atlas, working a fight in Denver, told him it was time to hang it up.
“Retire,” he told Moorer while the two were on the air. “Stay out of boxing. You’ve done so many great things.”
“So Teddy,” Moorer said. “You want me to stay out of boxing? Just become a trainer?”
“Yeah,” Atlas said. “I don’t want to see you fight anymore. You’ve done everything you can do at this level. It’s not there for you anymore.”
Moorer said Atlas is the only one who has been honest with him from the beginning. And he loved Atlas for it.
That’s when ESPN2 host Brian Kenny asked Moorer if he was going to listen to Atlas.
“I have to listen to him,” said Moorer, showing deep loyalty and respect for Atlas. “Teddy, I‘m going to listen to you. I will stay away from the game, and I will become one of the premier trainers in the future.”
Good for Moorer. Now I’ll remember him for something other than a Foreman right hand.