Judges show mercy to fumbling Foreman

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James Reed reports from Las Vegas on a travesty that further besmirched the name of a once great champion

George Foreman left Las Vegas in a hurry, wearing dark sunglasses to conceal his battered face after a terrible decision allowed him to keep his International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Union heavyweight titles at the MGM's Grand Garden on Saturday night.

Foreman appeared to realise he had been beaten by Germany's Axel Schulz when the bell finally sounded to end 12 often exciting rounds, but within 30 minutes the grandfather had adopted his usual line in comic arrogance and was claiming he was a clear winner.

As the rounds passed the seemingly impossible started to look incredibly likely and Schulz was enjoying himself. Before the fight the German was considered an easy touch but Foreman's complete lack of mobility should have led to the title changing hands. Instead, the judges voted narrowly in his favour.

Foreman, now 46, will return to Houston with his fifth wife before choosing another no-hoper for his next defence in July. However, it is likely that the IBF will try and force him to meet South Africa's Frans Botha, their No 1 contender, and if Big George declines he could find himself stripped of that title.

"I'm the People's Champion and I fight for the people," Foreman said after the fight. But even on Saturday night the majority of the 11,000 people in the arena accepted their hero's victory almost in silence. It was not a good spectacle to witness as Foreman was once a genuinely feared heavyweight and Schulz has always been mediocre.

"I am a grandpappy and yet this young man did not take the fight to me and the only way to win a world title is to dominate," Foreman said. As expected his promoter, Bob Arum, agreed with him but there were voices of discontent in the audience and not just from the 2,000 Germans. At times Foreman, having missed with lefts and rights, appeared to have run out of ideas which is amazing considering this was his 78th fight in a career which started four decades ago in 1969.

In contrast, the quiet German fought a tactically astute fight. He seldom committed himself until the later rounds and was content to work in a hurry and leave in a hurry. Foreman's reaction time meant that Schulz was free to come and go as he pleased. It really was disturbing.

One judge, Chuck Giampa, scored it 114-114 and the other two so-called experts at ringside, Keith Macdonald and Gerry Roth, returned identical scorelines of 115-113. Foreman raised his hands slowly and Schulz simply shrugged. Many experts in Vegas had written Schulz off before the fight.

Now Foreman will pick a new opponent for a July date but so far the list of allegedly safe opposition is shrinking with the American-Indian Joe Hipp emerging as the top no-hoper. Hipp is truly dreadful.

Not surprisingly, there was very little talk of Mike Tyson, any form of unification fight with any of the other champions or even a return with Michael Moorer. Foreman just wanted to get out of Las Vegas as quick as possible and start cracking his usual jokes and gloss over what was a terrible performance.

"My tactics were right and I knew that I'd won the fight, and hopefully George and promoter Bob will grant me a return in Germany," a hopeful Shulz said.

It is also likely that Foreman will consider his future, take a look at his bank balance and ignore the likes of Hipp and fight one final time against somebody of more credibility in a fight which would possibly generate more than the $10m (£6.25m) he won in Las Vegas on Saturday night. He was lucky then but there is no guarantee that his winning streak will continue.