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By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000

Foreman's comeback questioned

Depositions and interviews with fighters and boxing managers indicate that George Foreman benefited from fixed or tainted fights during a boxing comeback, according to a Miami Herald report. Nobody interviewed said Foreman knew about the fraud, however.

Foreman won the heavyweight title in 1973 after knocking out Joe Frazier in two rounds. Foreman came out of retirement after 10 years in 1987 as boxing's charming clown prince. He won a series of dubious fights before securing a 1994 title match that made him the sport's oldest heavyweight champion at 45. Associates manipulated his comeback, matching him against weak, sometimes injured opponents and some who fought under fraudulent credentials, according to the Herald.

Foreman said he never benefited from fixed or tainted fights: "Impossible. No one had any money. ... The reason I went back into boxing was I was broke."

In a racketeering trial, prosecutors questioned a $250,000 payment that Foreman described as a "consulting fee" leading to a 1995 International Boxing Federation title match against Axel Schulz. Prosecutors said Foreman might not have been "forthcoming" about the payment, which they said might have been a "bribe."

Prosecutors named Foreman an "unindicted co-conspirator" in an alleged bribery scheme involving IBF president Robert W. Lee Sr. and other IBF officials. A jury acquitted Lee of charges he received $338,000 in bribes from promoters and managers to give fighters favorable rankings, but he was convicted of tax evasion and conspiracy to launder money.

Foreman was not a central figure in the trial. But prosecutors used his fight with Schulz to illustrate how questionable payments were made to close deals with the IBF. Foreman beat Schulz and collected a $10-million purse.

Retired heavyweight Tony Fulilangi says he took a dive against Foreman in 1988. Former heavyweight contender Bert Cooper says he lost to Foreman in 1989 after he was plied with sex and drugs before a fight.

Boxing records show six men fought Foreman with inflated credentials. One opponent, Frank Lux, fought Foreman under a phony name and a bogus record.

One man who promoted Foreman's comeback, Ron Weathers, had ties to organized crime, according to a sworn statement in 1995 by former heavyweight Tim "Doc" Anderson, who is serving a life term following a homicide conviction. Weathers denies any connection to the mob.

Prosecutors said Weathers has convictions for bookmaking and possession of cocaine. Weathers testified that he paid $30,000 to get heavyweights Frans Botha and Joe Hipp ranked by the IBF. Neither fought Foreman.

Weathers and Foreman were among several people prosecutors named as "unindicted co-conspirators" in the racketeering trial.

Weathers said he produced a documentary on Foreman's comeback that will not be entirely flattering. "He's a fantastic athlete, a great preacher, a wonderful man -- with a serious mean streak," Weathers said.

Foreman often appears in infomercials promoting the "George Foreman, Lean, Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine." Salton Inc., maker of the grill, said it was paying Foreman and two partners $137.5-million in cash and stock. Foreman's share is $100-million in cash and $10-million in stock, according to an analyst for Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.

MORE BOXING: WBO junior-lightweight champion Acelino "Popo" Freitas knocked out Carlos Rios in the ninth round in OrIllia, Ontario, to improve his record to 27-0, all by knockout. In other bouts, WBO junior-middleweight champion Harry Simon went 20-0 after a 12-round decision over Rodney Jones. Billy "The Kid" Irwin took only 2:45 to defeat Moises Pedroza in a scheduled 10-rounder. Irwin's record improved to 34-3-0 with 24 KOs; Pedroza fell to 21-4-1.

SOCCER: In England, Leicester settled for a 1-1 tie at home against Everton, missing a chance to take the Premier League lead from defending champion Manchester United. Leicester and United have 15 points and are unbeaten in seven games. They are followed by Arsenal and Liverpool with 12 points and Charlton and Tottenham with 11.

COLLEGES: Saint Louis ended host South Florida's three-game winning streak in women's soccer with a 2-0 shutout. The Billikens' Beth Moberg opened the scoring in the 27th minute off a Mandy Trokey assist. Kathleen Schager scored Saint Louis' second goal in the 62nd minute. "We played very well against a team that won the conference championship and went undefeated last year," USF coach Logan Fleck said. "But we didn't keep our composure like we needed to." ... The visiting Florida soccer team finished a seven-match stretch versus nationally ranked teams with a 3-2 win over Virginia. The Gators (4-6) scored three in the first 45 minutes. Junior Jill Stevens scored her first two goals of the season. Sophomore Kara Rao gave the Gators a 3-0 lead late in the first half with her first goal this season. Three Gators were named to the Coca-Cola Classic all-tournament team: Stevens, Abby Wambach and Jordan Kellgren. ... Jacksonville's women scored four goals in the second half to beat visiting Mercer 4-1. The win extends the 9-1 Dolphins school-record winning streak to eight games. Junior defender Yvonna Rowinski, senior forward Stine Kloster, junior forward Trine Riis Groven and junior forward Karen Novak scored for the Dolphins. ... South Florida's women's volleyball team defeated visiting Southern Mississippi 15-7, 15-4, 15-2. The Bulls' Kelly Mathiasmeier had six kills and no errors, and Rachelle Paul had 10 kills and two errors.

HORSES: Ciro pulled away to a 21/2-length victory over Whatabrainstorm to win the $150,000 Lawrence Realization at Belmont Park in New York.

TENNIS: John McEnroe beat Jose-Luis Clerc 6-2, 6-3 to win the Siebel Champions in Stanford, Calif., his second Success Magazine Tour title this season. McEnroe, who won the NCAA championships as a freshman at Stanford, lost one set, to Andres Gomez, in the seniors event. Clerc advanced to the final when Jimmy Connors withdrew with a hip injury. McEnroe also beat Bjorn Borg and Henri Leconte.

PREP FOOTBALL: Police charged a woman with resisting arrest and a 15-year-old with battery on a law-enforcement officer after a Pop Warner game at Port Orange ended with a brawl involving more than 100 parents, coaches and players. Cmdr. Michael Sheridan said the brawl began after the host Hawks scored an overtime touchdown, beating the West Orange Wildcats 12-6. ... Jeremy Bryant Ragsdale, a 16-year-old junior who collapsed on the opening kickoff at St. Clair County's game at Springville, Ala., died of heart failure, according to an autopsy that showed no neck injuries, head injuries or spinal injuries.

OBITUARY: Warren Rutledge, 69, one of the winningest high school basketball coaches in the country, died Thursday after a stroke. Rutledge retired last season after leading Benedictine High School in Richmond, Va., to the state Catholic championship for the 26th time. His 949-334 record in 43 years was the highest victory total in Virginia prep history and seventh in the nation, according to the National High School Sports Record Book.

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