In round 8, Foreman continued to fight and then he almost slipped again. Next a white towel was thrown into the ring and everyone thought the fight was over--except, of course, for the referee, Arthur Mercante, Jr. Mercante quickly cleared he ring, asked Foreman if he wanted to continue, and let the fight go on.
There seemed to be some issue about whether Foreman's trainer, Grier, threw in the towel (it seems to be confirmed now that he did), but ultimately, as set forth below, it didn't matter. The 8th round came to an end and, in the 9th, Foreman ate a vicious liver shot and Mercante Jr. stepped in to stop the fight.
When asked about his decision to allow the fight to continue, Mercante stated as follows:
“The towel came in in the heat of the battle when there was a good exchange going.” “When the towel came in, I felt it was not necessary to stop the fight. Ten seconds prior, they were yelling, ‘Stop the fight, stop the fight,’ but there was no need to do that. It was a great fight and that’s what the fans came to see.”
While there were questions about whether Foreman's trainer threw in the towel (or an outside source) and whether the source of the towel affected Mercante's decision, under the Rules of the New York State Athletic Commission it doesn't really matter who threw in the towel.
Chapter 210.17 of Title 19 provides as follows:
Throwing towel into ring. No one shall throw any towel into the ring as a signal of defeat or for any other reason.So, it appears Mercante Jr. correctly disregarded the towel. That decision was definitively correct.
There is obviously some debate about whether Mercante should have exercised his discretion to stop the fight sooner (respecting Foreman's corner's belief that the fight should be stopped as opposed to Foreman's will to continue).
For my part, I think Mercante Jr. made the right call in the 8th and then in the 9h when he stopped it.