Foreman has an Axel to grind

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The Independent Online
In this town Big George Foreman is the perfect sized idol. He is without doubt the people's champion and tonight he defends his International Boxing Federation heavyweight championship at the garish MGM against a German called Axel Schulz.

Schulz is not rated by any of the world's diverse organisations, is untested and looks very nervous. He is expected to fold early as Foreman is understandably cautious about exerting too much effort over too many rounds and has promised a quick ending. Nobody inside the 12,000-seat stadium will mind if Schulz goes down in less than a minute.

At the MGM the forthcoming 10-foot granite statue of convicted rapist Mike Tyson perfectly emphasises the weird city's taste. At one entrance a yellow brick road leads to the Wizard of Oz's base camp and at the other entrance the soon to be completed effigy of Tyson will greet the 5,000 guests. "I hope they put the statue inside to keep the pigeons off it," Foreman joked. However, boxing business is no joke in this ugly town.

Schulz, who speaks little English, has remained silent even in his own tongue for most of the week but his 2,500 travelling fans have been keen to impose themselves on the Vegas scene. There will be a violent clash of culture in the ring as well.

Foreman, now 46, will receive $10m (£6.2m) for his efforts but he could face further disciplinary action - earlier this year his World Boxing Association title was taken from him because he agreed to meet Schulz - from the IBF who want him to meet a South African called Frans Botha, their No 1 contender. Botha and Schulz are equally inept.

The idiotic reasoning of the men who run the world's governing bodies could force Foreman to rely exclusively on his World Boxing Union belt which he received in a ceremony earlier this year. The WBU are based in a Norfolk village and reformed last December but could soon have the true world heavyweight champion as part of their bizarre claim to fame. Big George is under pressure but he refuses to bow, as he has always done, and if he is stripped of the IBF title he will remain as the people's champion.

It is a disturbing fault to imagine Schulz as the new heavyweight champion but Foreman and the Vegas bookmakers appear to have no such worries. The German is over two stones lighter and is a rank outsider with odds varying between 6-1 and 10-1. Foreman acknowledges his opponent's youth but has gently avoided discussing his eligibility. "My promoter Bob Arum picked him. He is not my choice... I would have chosen Peewee Herman." Of course, Herman has been out of action since he was exposed at a gentleman's theatre club in Florida two years ago.

The man Foreman really wants is the man soon to be standing in the MGM lobby and whenever Foreman visits in the future that is about as close as he will ever get to meeting Tyson.