ALMOST 20 years to the day since he first stole the world heavyweight title by flooring Joe Frazier six times in Jamaica, George Foreman will tonight aim to inflict similar damage on South Africa's Pierre Coetzer in the more traditional boxing environs of Reno, Nevada.
The build-up to the 10-round contest at the Convention Centre, however, has centred on the Texan's plans for the future rather than past glories. And, at 44, Foreman acknowledges that the end of his comeback - one that saw him go the distance against Evander Holyfield, the then undisputed champion, in 1991 - is near.
'I won't fight beyond 1993, that's it,' he announced yesterday. Just in case anyone required any further evidence of his seriousness of intent, Foreman added that he had assured his mother, Nancy, the very same thing. 'When he tells his mother something, he does it,' his brother, Ray, insisted. The fact that Foreman took a pounding during his last engagement, a hard-fought majority points win over Alex Stewart nine months ago, may have been influential.
'Beat me if you're going to beat me, but don't mess up my face,' Foreman quipped. 'I'm an actor.' He recently shot a pilot for a proposed television series about a rich retired heavyweight who gets involved with a bunch of inner-city youths. The working title? George.
Foreman still nurtures visions of another tilt at the title before he is done. He was 'inches away' from a shot at the WBA and IBF holder, Riddick Bowe, and now has Lennox Lewis, the WBC holder, in his sights. For now, though, the best he can look forward to should he defeat Coetzer would be a fight with Tommy Morrison in Las Vegas on 16 April, provided Morrison beats Carl 'The Truth' Williams on tonight's undercard. Promoter Bob Arum hopes Lewis will meet the winner of the Foreman-Morrison matchup.
Holyfield, meanwhile, has done another U-turn. Restating his intention to come out of retirement and regain his title, he revealed that he will be working with a new promoter - Hammer, an aptly-named rap singer.