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A truly inspirational rags to riches story
Foreman is more than just the man beaten by Ali at 'Rumble in the Jungle'
Posted Aug 27, 2010 by Jeff Dawson
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He went from thug to boxer to heavyweight champion to preacher to heavyweight champion to successful businessman – quite a story for guy who was mugging and brawling on the hard streets of Houston’s 5th ward at the age of 15.
Yet George Foreman’s rags to riches story is down to hard work and a belief in himself that many others could only dream of.
Foreman, the man who is now known for his Lean Mean Grilling Machines, was saved from a life that was headed towards prison by Lyndon Johnson’s Job Corps programme – a scheme to help troubled kids. The future heavyweight champion of the world travelled to California where he met Job Corps counsellor and boxing coach Doc Broaddus – the man who encourage Foreman into the ring and to become the fighter we all know and remember now.
It was clear that Foreman was something special after he began training in the gym and he quickly forged a successful amateur record with the highlight being a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City – his 25th amateur fight. Never one to shy away, he made sure of extra attention following this tremendous victory by waving the American flag following his win. “I wanted everyone in the world to know I was an American and proud of the opportunity that I given to do what I had done,” he later said.
The natural progression to the professional ranks came about in 1969 and within two years this powerhouse was ranked as the number one challenger by the WBA and WBC. By 1972 his phenomenal record stood at 37 fights with 37 wins, most by the way of knockout.
He got his shot at the big time with a world championship bout against Joe Frazier in Jamaica in January 1973. Frazier was clear favourite going into the fight but Foreman, with power and destruction in both hands, knocked the champion down and out inside two rounds in front of an unprecedented TV audience – this was the first ever broadcast on HBO Boxing.
He successfully defended his title twice beating Puerto Rican Jose Roman in just 50 seconds, the shortest heavyweight championship match, and Ken Norton, who had just beaten Muhammad Ali.
Next to come for Foreman was the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ with Ali in Zaire. Injury hampered his preparations and Ali’s mind games got to him in the build up to the encounter, and once in the ring, Ali forged the ‘Rope-a-Dope’ to outsmart Foreman and take his crown away from him.
Following this disappointment Foreman took a break from boxing returning to the ring in 1976 with several victories before losing by decision to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico in 1977. It was in his dressing room after this bout that her had a religious experience which led to him giving up boxing and becoming a born-again Christian.
He became ordained and started preaching in Houston and in 1984 he founded the George Foreman Youth and Community Centre. He hoped to help kids needing direction just like he had been helped. However, this ran into financial difficulties so Foreman decided to return to the sport he had graced so wonderfully in 1987.
Despite many people calling him ‘too old’, ‘too unfit’ etc, Foreman kept winning fights in his 40s and in 1991 he had another shot at the world title, unfortunately losing to Evander Holyfield on points.
However, his day did come again and in 1994 aged 44, Foreman took on new champion Michael Moorer and knocked him down in the 10th round to become the oldest person to ever hold the heavyweight title and also the fighter with the most time between holding the belts for a first and second time. He defended the belts in 1995 against Axel Schultz but, having refused a rematch, he gave them up and retired in 1999.
He has since launched many business including his Lean Mean Grilling Machines which, to date, have sold over 100 million units. He is also involved with Meineke Car Care Centres, a restaurant franchise called UFood Grille, has written 10 books, tends to his ministry and does countless hours of charitable work.
Foreman has used his experiences of his youth to help those in a similar position, has been heavyweight champion of the world twice, works with many charities and promotes a healthy lifestyle for all.
Foreman was a giant of a man and possessed great strength and power. He is considered to hardest hitting boxer of all time by many and possibly the strongest to have ever entered the ring. It was this combination that made him such a formidable opponent for all who went toe-to-toe with him.
George Foreman - a good man, trying to give back to a life that has blessed him so dearly.