The noted countertop-grill retailer and ex-heavyweight champion has issued a challenge to Vladimir Putins best friend. If it ever happens, it will be a cultural event worthy of our troubled times
It has become a cliche of the era to say we are getting what we deserve. We get the politicians we deserve, we get the presidents we deserve, we get the world we deserve. Without getting overly LOreal advert about it all, surely we deserve a respite from these just deserts? Cant something hilarious and magical come along that we can all welcome with open arms, realising that we are, without question, getting the thing that we deserve and that it is good?
Yes. Yes it can. George Foreman has challenged Steven Seagal to aproper fight. This is the cultural event that should have you telling yourself because Im worth it. Clearly, the best time to enjoy it is at this dare-to-dream stage because I sense that one of the parties may ultimately decide the bout cant go ahead. Maybe because hes too good. Maybe because hes afraid of hurting the other guy. Maybe because he was demoted to chef after a bungled special forces operation to take out General Noriega.
But at this stage, when Seagal has pointedly yet to respond and everything still seems possible, lets get down to the background. A few days ago, former two-time heavyweight champion of the world and noted countertop grill retailer George Foreman took to Twitter to issue achallenge to cinemas Steven Seagal.As all of us adrift on the strange tides of early 21st-century culture should know, Seagal is something of arenaissance man himself, combining age-inappropriate, straight-to-gif action roles with functioning both as a hench-sensei/fat best friend to Vladimir Putin, and as an occasional spokesmodel for the Russian armsindustry.
That is not the half of it, although space constraints mean we must gloss over his stint as an energy drink inventor and blues guitarist. Ditto the headlines he drew for his stint as an Arizona border-control guard as part of the posse of recently pardoned horror sheriff Joe Arpaio following which Seagal was accused of killing apuppy during a raid on a house. (Animal abuser is a role I will not accept, ran a rebuttal that primarily reminded completists like me of all the roles he has accepted. Some of the later performances are arguably on a par with canicide.)
And of course there is more so much more. Just when you think you know him, Seagal unfurls himself in another direction. Crimea expert. Ukrainian national security threat. Aikido trainer to the Serbian special forces. Like a series of lotus blossoms, his career decisions constantly rise above the shitty waters in which they germinated. And then they die and rot away again, and it all really stinks somehow much, much worse than it did before. But I think the message is the eternal cycle, or something.
Anyhow, on to Foremans challenge, which may or may not be provoked by Seagals recent outburst on Good Morning Britain. Beamed in from Moscow, where he now lives, he raged about US athletes taking the knee in protest, declaring: I myself have risked my life countless times for the American flag. Mmm. As a young Katherine Heigl reveals in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory: Uncle Caseys got medals at home that are so secret he can never show them to anybody. No doubt, no doubt. Seagal certainly has a purple heart in dismissing domestic abuse lawsuits.
Shortly after this well-publicised rant, and indeed after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Foreman tweeted: Steven Seagal, I challenge you, one on one. I use boxing, you can use whatever. 10 rounds in Vegas.
Well. I think youll agree those few characters contain multitudes, but the big-fight trash talk has been formally opened with that you can use whatever. As students of Seagals work will know, Steven has a seventh dan black belt in aikido, and a 10th dan in making it sound like he was given his powers by Buddha at a mountain rendezvous in Nepal, sometime between the mid-Mahajanapada era and the North American theatrical release of Above the Law. He has spent a lifetime talking up his whatever, while always remaining sufficiently adaptable to improvise a weapon from a bar towel, microwave or Native American something-or-other. To hear this art form the sweet pseudoscience dismissed as whatever by Foreman will surely send him up the wall.
Where better to settle this than the ring? While Seagal desperately tries to come up with credible and face-saving answers to that question and Foreman continues to goad him we should consider the tale of the tape. At 68, Foreman is three years older than Seagal, with both of them clocking in a little older than the age that Rocky got back into the ring in Rocky Balboa. Which was pretend.
Weight? Look … Im not sure we dare speculate here. Georges grill obviously indicates an interest in retaining lean muscle, while in his DVD outings, Seagal is mostly shot in shadow so dark it makes Marlon Brandos lair in Apocalypse Now look striplit.
In terms of other liabilities, Seagals widows peak is now being comprehensively out-acted by even John Travoltas, and he may be terrified of experiencing something of what Andre Agassi went through during the 1990 French Open final. As the tennis star later revealed, thered been some kind of toupee malfunction the night before, resulting in him squaring up to Andrs Gmez with it held together by paperclips, and being so worried about his rug coming off that he lost.
On the plus side, Seagal is a sort of demigod, having been formally declared a tulku (a reincarnated lama) by the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism. That may come with powers of which we are as yet unaware.
He is, however, slightly less known for actual fighting than George Foreman. Seagals martial artistry was only brought to a wider audience by his most famous client. Yes, if youve ever watched a Seagal movie and wondered How did this guy get into motion pictures?, you may like to know that he used to train legendary former Creative Artists Agency overlord Michael Ovitz. Seagals stardom is largely down to the fact that Ovitz couldnt have a single second of the day where he wasnt packaging some kind of deal, including at 5am or whatever ungodly hour he was shouting judo CHOP! at Steven, probably in some Beverly Hills aerobics studio where the part of the Far East was played by a silver bell and three jossticks. A star was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Its certainly in the past, anyway, with Seagals activities these days confined to touring Russian schools and arms fairs with Putin, cheerleading for Trump and explaining impatiently to western media that all governments dick around with other countries elections (I paraphrase slightly). Foremans history is a little more … well, seriously historical.
Still, there you have it. Think of the buildup. Think of the training montages. Think of the press conferences. Think of the undercard (preference: Holyfield-Van Damme). Think of the ponytail lumbering for the hills.
Its not going to happen in Vegas, but perhaps some ambitious dictator might oblige and stage it, as Mobutu Sese Seko did for the Rumble in the Jungle? Perhaps Putin could use it as a World Cup curtain-raiser next year? After all, Seagal now seems a wholly owned subsidiary of the Russian state, rather like Ivan Drago, and could be introduced as fighting out of his home town of Moscow. That might swing the scales in his favour (probably literally). Though this would obviously be a contest less morally shaded than even Rocky IV. As for the name of this epochal meeting, it should be thrown open to all of us prospective pay-per-viewers. Ill start the ball rolling with the Oh-No in the Dojo and the Twatting on the Matting, and invite further suggestions at your earliestconvenience.