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George Foreman Biography

Fighter Profile: George Foreman
Nickname: “Big George”
Born: January 10th, 1949
From: Marshall, Texas
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Professional Record: 76 wins, 5 losses, and 68 knockouts
Retired: 1997
Famous Quote: “The age of 40 is not a death sentence.”

The play of George Foreman really came in two acts. In the 60’s and 70’s, he was a talented power puncher who was deemed to be invincible. Sullen and brooding, he was perhaps a little soft mentally underneath his terrifying image. When he resurfaced in the 80’s and 90’s, he was a fat and jolly old man, seemingly harmless, but more tempered by the hardships of life. His quixotic comeback ranks among the most unlikely and greatest of all time.

Early Career

Foreman grew up in Texas. A mixed-up kid, he took to boxing late in his teens. After merely 26 amateur fights, he won a berth on the 1968 Olympic team. At 19, and already flashing his copious power, he stormed to a gold medal win. Many fans’ first images of Foreman are of him waving two little American flags after capturing the gold medal. He would later find out his fellow African-Americans would label him an “Uncle Tom” for showing patriotism during the absolute apex of civil rights-related angst in America.

He turned pro and began knocking people out. While not elegant, his power was off the charts. He didn’t show speed or throw punches very well technically, but he managed to consistently deliver blows that were beyond hurtful. His opponents were undersized and even more underpowered, but the 6’3” Foreman did his job, amassing a record of 37-0 (34 KOs) in just over 3 years as a pro.

Heavyweight Champion of the World

Foreman was seen as being too raw and unschooled when he met preeminent Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier. “Smokin’” Joe was undefeated and had beaten Muhammad Ali. He was a feared man. Foreman, however, treated him like a novice. Frazier was bounced around the ring like a basketball, going down 6 times in less than two rounds before being saved by the referee. Foreman’s punches lifted Frazier off the canvas. The performance was one of the more dominant victories registered over a fighter of Frazier’s repute. The obliteration over top opponents continued in Foreman’s second defense—a brutal bowling over of Ken Norton.

Rumble in the Jungle

Foreman was a big favorite over Muhammad Ali when they met in 1974 in Zaire. Ali had not seemed the same since returning in 1970, suffering losses to Frazier and Norton, two men who Foreman had nearly decapitated. People feared for Ali’s safety against the destructive Foreman. Ali, however, managed to psych out Foreman, and then employed the very effective “rope-a-dope” technique. Foreman would wail away at Ali, who would cover up and wait for Big George to tire. Psychologically ruined by his inability to dent Ali, Foreman eventually unraveled, falling to the masterful ex-champion in 8 rounds.

Ring Return and Religious Awakening

Foreman seemed like damaged goods after Ali beat him. He trudged on and while he won, he was never able to get a rematch. Maybe he never wanted one. His first comeback fight, against Ron Lyle, was a back-and forth classic that saw Foreman dig deep for the win. He repeated his annihilation of Frazier and scored a series of lower-key wins.

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Clever Jimmy Young beat Foreman in 1977 in Puerto Rico. Foreman, suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion fell apart in the dressing room. He asked God to intervene. Since that day, he became a born-again Christian. He retired from boxing and began a life as a preacher. By 1987, his money had dried up. Foreman envisioned doing some great things with disadvantaged youth, but he needed money. What could he do?

The Comeback of All Comebacks

Foreman had become a boxing footnote by the late 80’s. People were surprised to find out he was only 37, though nobody took his comeback seriously. In his first comeback fight, he looked obese and incredibly slow. His punches still looked hurtful, but many questioned his conditioning, age, slowness, and eventually—his opponents. Foreman racked up a bunch of knockouts, but wins over a collection of poolroom hangouts and parking lot attendants do not mean you’re a contender. This process proved wise, as it allowed to Foreman to shake off rust and round into fighting shape.

Eventually, Foreman began to earn respect. Though still rotund, he became more fit. His jab appeared strangely improved and he seemed totally secure in himself. Wins over Bert Cooper and Gerry Cooney indicated he was perhaps more than a freak show. In 1991, at age 42, Foreman received a title shot against champion Evander Holyfield. Though losing a clear decision, Foreman was competitive, even rocking the excellent champion on occasion. He showed tremendous grit and ability for someone from a different era. The loss actually made Foreman a serious heavyweight once again.

But as time crept along, it appeared Foreman had lost his mojo. He won a few fights, before being rendered a bloody mess against Alex Stewart in a narrow points win. A bad loss to Tommy Morrison, in which Big George looked ancient, appeared to signal the end.

The Unbelievable Becomes Reality

By late-1994, Foreman had been off for a year-and-a-half. The new champion was Michael Moorer, who was 35-0 and 27 years old. Foreman begged for the match and got it. For ten rounds, Moorer steadily beat up Foreman with a great jab and quick shots. Foreman was swollen and bleeding, when in the 10th round, he drove home a right hand that crushed into Moorer’s mouth—ripping his mouth-guard and separating him from the title. At 45, Foreman became the oldest man to win a title in boxing. It was one of boxing’s most incredible moments.

Eventually stripped of his titles for failing to face certain contenders, Foreman continued on, still recognized as the linear champion. He struggled to beat Axel Schulz and Lou Savarese, before being scandalously robbed in a match against Shannon Briggs in 1997, his last fight. Nevertheless, he accomplished what he set out to do.

Retirement

Foreman has made untold millions from his enormously popular George Foreman Grills. He worked on HBO as an announcer and even flirted with another comeback attempt in 2004, before stepping away from the game. He now concentrates on his business and philanthropic endeavors.

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