Schulz plays the joker

Harry Mullan says a German's gamble could upset heavyweight plans
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The Independent Online
LAS VEGAS lives on hope, funded by the conviction that the next card you are dealt completes that royal flush. But even Vegas has rarely known a dream quite so impossible as that nurtured by Axel Schulz, an obscure German heavyweight who attempts to become champion of the world on Saturday by dethroning George Foreman at the MGM Grand.

Schulz has met only one opponent who could be remotely considered world class in his 23 fights (of which he has won 21): Britain's Henry Akinwande was ill-rewarded by a draw in their first meeting for the European title in Berlin in December 1992, and trounced him in the rematch. He is there to make up the numbers and allow Foreman to collect another few million dollars while he waits for the Tyson hysteria to build, but a man with nothing to lose can sometimes perform above expectations.

Mickey Duff, a long-time associate of the German's promoter, Wilfried Sauerland, sees a glimmer of hope for his friend's client. "Schulz is strong and durable," he reasons, "and anyone who can stay on his feet has a fair chance of beating George.

"Foreman can knock you out, but he can't outbox you. The only way he can beat Schulz is to knock him out, and Schulz takes a good punch." Duff's opinions are always worth respecting, but a German victory would be a catastrophic financial blow for the heavyweight industry. Foreman's is the "real" title, by right of succession from the last undisputed champion, and the fact that only the IBF continues to recognise him is irrelevant to his status or to his bargaining power as regards Mike Tyson.

Last weekend, down the road at Caesars Palace, two other pieces of the heavyweight jigsaw slotted neatly into place. Bruce Seldon moved into pole position in the Tyson comeback race by stopping Tony Tucker for the vacant WBA title, while WBC champion Oliver McCall sent the division's other museum piece, Larry Holmes, into honourable retirement by edging out a close points verdict.

McCall will now almost certainly face perennial contender Frank Bruno in an open-air show in Britain this summer, and after that will have to make a mandatory defence against the winner of the final eliminator between Lennox Lewis and Lionel Butler, which takes place on 13 May. Having beaten Seldon, Tyson would then tackle the WBC champion before moving on to potentially the most dangerous opponent of all, WBO champion Riddick Bowe or the giant Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzalez, against whom Bowe defends on 17 June.

But that is for the future. For now, the only title Tyson is chasing with any enthusiasm is Champion Consumer. This week, he purchased a $3.7m, seven-bedroom mansion in Las Vegas, with, presumably, garage space for the seven cars he bought last week. His contracted sponsors, the MGM Grand, were unhappy when he was filmed spending $200,000 on jewellery and gifts for his entourage of hangers-on in Caesars Palace shopping mall, since it gave publicity to their arch rivals ... so Tyson did it all again, this time in the MGM mall. The cynics were right: his Muslim beliefs do not seem to have survived past the prison car park. But then Mecca is East, and Vegas is West, and Vegas is where the money is.