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December 27, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 16: Big George wins bloody battle

Foreman survives Alex Stewart in first boxing match at the Mack

Beyond the Sun

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

Over the past 15 years, the Thomas & Mack Center has held some of boxing's most memorable and lucrative prizefights.

The very first one it hosted was neither.

George Foreman vs. Alex Stewart on April 11, 1992 was a glorified mugging.

It was the night The Sweet Science became The Brutal and Bloody Science.

It was supposed to be just another day in the squared circle for Foreman, who, at age 42, had captured the hearts and imaginations of fight fans by going the distance with the young whippersnapper Evander Holyfield a year earlier in a heavyweight title bout.

Stewart was just the latest in a series of opponents Foreman had hand picked after reinventing himself. Although it appeared he had trained for the fight by consuming mass quantities of little chocolate donuts -- Big George weighed in at a rotund 259 pounds -- he floored Stewart twice in the second round.

One more, and the fight would be called on the three-knockdown rule.

But Foreman could not finish off his lightly regarded opponent.

And then, unfortunately for the popular ex-champ, Stewart began fighting back.

Never know as a warrior, Stewart became one. For every thunderous punch Foreman landed, Stewart landed two.

By the eighth round, Big George's face looked like a watermelon oozing its contents all over Aisle 4. It looked like the Las Vegas Chainsaw Massacre had broken out in his corner.

This is how Ron Borges, the esteemed boxing writer of the Boston Globe, described it the next day:

Seven rounds into what would be a 10-round visit to boxing's Gethsemane, the Punching Preacher found himself tormented and in the most serious trouble of his career. His normally cherubic face had turned into a mask of horror, his right cheek swelling, his eyes closed to slits, his mouth beginning to overflow with his own blood, his nose dripping red onto an upper lip so swollen it hung low, like a piece of fruit grown too ripe on the vine.

Before the ambulances were summoned, Foreman was awarded a majority decision.

Two years later, he would be champ again.

He had been to hell and back and had somehow survived.

But it wasn't pretty.

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