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Foreman, George 1948–

George Foreman 1948

Professional boxer

Juvenile Delinquent

Doused Smokin Joe

Marked More Milestones

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

George Foreman is an unlikely hero in a savage sport. A former heavyweight champion of the world, Foreman returned to professional boxing after a ten-year retirement with the idea of regaining his lost crown. In doing so, he also dealt a crashing blow to conventional wisdom which insisted that middle-aged men had no business pursuing world heavyweight championships and instead ought to play with their grandchildren, noted Ebonys Hans J. Massaquoi.

Foremans checkered career includes juvenile delinquency, an Olympic gold medal, dramatic victories and defeats in boxings professional ranks, and years spent as a preacher and youth leader. Even in his years away from boxing he has been the subject of media attention-not all of it flattering-and his return to the ring has sparked heated debate on his talents and potential. The boxer himself, a fundamentalist Christian, declares that he has returned to his sport in order to raise money for the youth center he is developing in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. He refuses to concede that his advancing age could weigh against him in a field where stamina and agility factor heavily into most victories. 40 is no death sentence, he told Time magazine. Age is only a problem if you make it one.

If he seems assured at mid-life, Foreman was certainly adrift as a youth. He was born and raised in the Fifth Ward, a poor neighborhood on the north side of Houston. There he made a name for himself as a brawler, drinker, petty thief, and gang leader, quitting school before he got to the ninth grade. Lester Hayes, a member of the Los Angeles Raiders football team, grew up in the same neighborhood and described the George Foreman he remembered in Sports Illustrated. Foreman, Hayes said, was a very, very big kid and had a reputation for savage butt kickings. That was his forte. So by the early age of 12, I had met George Foreman twice and I found both occasions extremely taxing. Hayes added: I will say this of George. He was a smart gangster in that he would tax you first and then kick your butt. But he wasnt a very nice thing.

Juvenile Delinquent

Foreman told Sports Illustrated that he thought a hero was someone with a big, long scar down his face, a guy whod come back from prison, a guy maybe killed a man once. He even went so far as to wear bandages on his

At a Glance

Born 1948 in Houston, TX.; married five times; fifth wifes name, Mary Joan; nine children from three of his five marriages, including five sons named George. Education: Earned GED, 1967.

Job Corps, Grants Pass, OR and Pleasanton, CA, c. early-mid 1960s; amateur boxer, 1966-68; won gold medal in heavyweight division in 1968 Olympic Games; went professional in 1969; became heavyweight champion of the world, January 22, 1973, by defeating Joe Frazier; lost title to Muhammad Ali in 1974; retired from professional boxing, 1977; returned to boxing, 1986; defeated in 12-round championship title bout, April, 1991, against Evander Holyfield; became heavyweight champion of the world, November 5, 1994, by defeating Michael Moorer. Minister and youth leader, 1977-86, working primarily out of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (founded by Foreman) in Houston. Author, By George (with Joel Engle; autobiography), Random, 1995; George Foremans Knock-Out-the-Fat Barbeque and Grilling Book (with Cherie Calbom), Random, 1996.

Addresses: Home-Houston, TX. O/frce-George Foreman Community Center, 2202 Lone Oak Rd., Houston, TX 77093-3336.

own face so it would seem like he had a scar. Without any proper role models Foreman just drifted, with no clear idea how to make a life for himself. He was growing up in a single-parent family and spending most of his time in the streets. I remember once, he said in Sports Illustrated, two boys and myself, we robbed a guy. Threw him down. I could hold the guy because I was strong, and the sneaky fella would grab the money. And then wed run until we couldnt hear the guy screaming anymore. And then wed walk home as if wed just earned some money on a job, counting it. We didnt even know we were criminals.

One day Foreman was watching television at his Houston home. A commercial came on featuring athlete Jim Brown, one of the few men Foreman actually admired. In the commercial, Brown urged young people to join the Job Corps in order to be somebody. Foreman took the challenge. All alone, the teenager traveled from Texas to Oregon, where he joined a Job Corps camp. All was not rosy right away, though-Sports Illustrated contributor Richard Hoffer described the youth as principally a thug in a new outfit. Shortly after joining the Job Corps, Foreman was involved in a savage fistfight in the town of Pleasanton, California. When a group of counselors could not pull Foreman off his victim, they called upon the supervisor, Doc Broadus, for help. Broadus stepped in and stopped the fight, noticing in the process that Foreman seemed to be crying out for understanding, that he was indeed a confused boy wasting his strength in fits of frustration.

Broaduss special interest was developing boxers. He took Foreman to the gym and began to teach him how to channel his energy for productive purposes. In a short two years, Foreman developed into a powerful amateur heavyweight. He not only qualified for the 1968 Olympic Games, he won the gold medal in his division. His many victories notwithstanding, Foreman still remembers his moment in the 1968 games as the highlight of his life. He told Sports Illustrated: None of it felt as good as when I was poor and had just won that gold medal, when I wore it so long I had to have the ribbon restitched.

Doused Smokin Joe

Foreman turned pro in 1969 and began to move through the ranks toward the championship. He made his mark quickly, going undefeated through forty fights and winning more than half of those within two rounds. My opponents didnt worry about losing to me, Foreman told Sports Illustrated. They worried about getting hurt. Despite this track record, Foreman was an underdog when he entered the ring against world champion Joe Frazier in 1973. Frazier had stunned the world by beating Muhammad Ali and was thought to be invincible. Not only did Foreman beat Frazier, he knocked the champion down six times in a brutal TKO victory. Foreman went on to defend his championship belt against Ken Norton, another highly-ranked contender, and knocked him out in less than two rounds.

This set the stage for one of the most dramatic fights in modern history, the October 30, 1974 meeting between Foreman and Ali in Zaire. The crowd of 60,000 was squarely in Alis corner, booing Foreman loudly as he attacked the former champion with flurry after flurry of punches. In Muhammad Ali, Foreman had finally met his match. The wily Ali absorbed six rounds of punishment from Foreman, taunting him all the while, and then Foreman was spent. Ali knocked Foreman down in the eighth round, and Foreman was unable to rise before the count of ten. It was his first loss, and it came in spectacular fashion. Years later, in 1997, the Rumble in the Jungle would become the subject of an acclaimed documentary entitled When We Were Kings.

The impact of that loss rocked Foreman for years to come. Sports Illustrated correspondent Gary Smith wrote: Out of nowhere, [Foreman] had won adulation by mauling people in a boxing ring; now that he had lost for the first time, he lived with a quiet terror. He couldnt stop spending money or conquering women.... He was flailing at love and acceptance the same way he did at Ali, thinking he could win them by exertion of muscle and might. Foreman does not like to dwell on those years now. He admits his life was completely out of control. After Id lost to Ali, he said, Id decided I needed more hate. Pd hit you in the kidneys or on the back of the head. Id beat women as hard as I beat men. You psyche yourself to become an animal to box, and thats what you become. A lion sleeps 75 percent of the day, the rest he eats and breedsjust like a boxer.

Marked More Milestones

Surrounded by false friends and the useless trappings of a lavish lifestyle (including a lion, a tiger, a $21,000 German shepherd, and a half dozen luxury cars), Foreman more or less made a spectacle of himself. On March 17, 1977, he climbed into the ring in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a match with lightly-regarded Jimmy Young. For Foreman the fight was no more than a tune-up match for a return against Ali, but he lost a 12-round decision to Young. That fight marked a true milestone in Foremans career. After returning to the dressing room, Foreman became ill and began to be obsessed with death.

Foreman told Sports Illustrated that he found himself plunged into a deep, dark nothing, like out in a sea, with nothing over your head or under your feet. Nothing but nothing. A big dark lump of it. And a horrible smell came with it. A smell I havent forgotten. A smell of sorrow.... And then I looked around and I was dead. That was it. I thought of everything I worked for. I hadnt said goodbye to my mother, my children. All the money I hid in safe-deposit boxes! You know how paper burns and when you touch it, it just crumbles. That was my life. I looked back and saw it crumble, like Pd fallen for a big joke.

Foreman began babbling in his terror and was taken to the hospital. On the way, he said, he felt the saving grace of God restoring him to life. I said, I dont think this is death, he remembered. I still believe in God. And l said that and I was back alive.... I could feel the blood flowing through my veins. For a moment, I felt I was somebody.Overnight, Foreman became a zealous Christian. He quit the ring and began a new career, preaching on Houston street corners and in fundamentalist churches. Eventually he opened his own church, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in a mobile home. There he ministered to a small flock, trying to avoid the limelight as much as possible.

Even though he had found Jesus Christ, Foreman still had not taken a firm grasp of his life. Within a space of two years-1981 to 1983he was married and divorced three times. One of his wives fled to Barbados with the couples two children, and he flew there and literally stole them back. That experience forced him to face yet more unsavory facts about his life. Foreman told Sports Illustrated: Were all like blind men on a corner-we got to learn to trust people, or well never cross the street. Ive come to find out love is allowing yourself to be weak and vulnerable and hurt. I used to think that was weakness, even after Id become a preacher. All those women that were leaving me were just trying to get me to say `I love you like I really meant it, instead of just giving them things.

Between 1983 and 1986 Foreman seemed to have found peace at last. His small church and a gym he had built next to it filled his days. He remarried and fathered the last of three sons-all named George. Gradually, however, the expenditures for the church and gym began to erode what funds he had left from his boxing days. At the same time, some of his eight children were nearing college age. Foreman tried to raise money by serving as a guest minister, but he found that experience humiliating. At the age of 40, he decided to return to the career that had proven so lucrative for him in his 20s-boxing.

Immediately Foreman faced yet another challenge. His love of fast food and home cooking had sustained him through the 1980s, but it had also caused his weight to balloon. He estimates that on his first day back in training he weighed nearly 315 pounds. As reporters scoffed, he announced his intentions to fight and began to work out vigorously, eventually bringing his weight down to 267. Few in the boxing establishment praised Foreman for his comeback, especially when he began to book easy fights against no-name opposition. NBC boxing commentator Ferdie Pacheco told Sports Illustrated: This is pathetic. It shouldnt be allowed. Hes overage, inept. This whole thing is a fraudulent second career to build a money fight with [Mikel] Tyson.

Indeed, Foreman did have his eye on Iron Mike Tyson, then the heavyweight champion. Tyson was 10 years old the last time I had a match, Foreman said in the Boston Globe. Im fighting guys he just fought and beating them. It still only takes me one punch. Whump. The power is still there. Foreman proved that power to a certain extent by turning in 24 victories, 23 by knockout, between 1986 and 1990. In January of 1990 he met former contender Gerry Cooney in Atlantic City (a match locally known as The Geezers at Caesars), knocking him senseless in the second round. Despite his constant battles with weight and the slower reflexes of age, Foreman finally signed for a title match, not against Tyson but against 28-year-old Evander Holyfield. That bout, which took place in April of 1991, ended in defeat for Foreman, although he was not easily beaten-the fight went 12 rounds.

The money Foreman had earned since making his comeback enabled him to build a spacious new athletic center for underprivileged youngsters in Houston, but he refused to relinquish his dream. For his own kids and for others, Foreman felt I had to set an example, he explained in Ebony. I think its a crime for a man whos made as much as me to ask for donations, he told Sports Illustrated. I want kids with murder on their faces. Ill trick em with boxing and sports to get them straightened out and going to school. He spent the next four years earning himself another go at the championship.

By November of 1994, Foreman had fought his way back into the championship ring, this time with 26-year-old Michael Moorer, who had stripped Holyfield of his title. People dont know what it took for George to make it back, aide Mort Sharnik revealed to Esquire. The bumps, the bruises, the cuts. The loneliness. The self-doubt. The unmerciful effort to reach a higher condition each time out. Going against age and weight ... and a conventional wisdom that was mean and full of contempt. But hes a man of large intelligence. Foremans mental attitude, fortitude, stamina-and one walloping punch delivered two minutes into the tenth round--ended the jeers of all his critics and made him, at 45, the oldest man to regain the heavyweight title in the history of the sport. In one fell swoop, Foreman was back on top, holding the titles of the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) formerly held by Moorer.

Against the wishes of the WBA, Foreman defended his crown against Alex Schultz in April of 1995, rather than against Tony Tucker, the number-one-ranked contender at the time. In so doing, Foreman was stripped of his WBA title. Shortly thereafter, Foreman was forced to give up is IBF title for refusing to fight Schultz again that fall. Though he had earlier vowed to give up boxing after 1995, then after 1996, matches were being planned even in 1997. Though Foreman did step into the ring from time to time, none of the bouts received as much attention as the historical one on November 5, 1994.

Meanwhile, Foreman planned to spend the rest of an active life in Houston, training others in the sport that had provided him with so many ups and downs. He published an autobiography entitled By George and for a short time had appeared in George, a 1992 ABC-TV sitcom about an overweight, middle-aged former boxing champ plotting a comeback. The series lasted only eight weeks, but as Ebony predicted, from street tough, to Olympic star, to bad guy boxing champ, to minister of the gospel, to big brother to troubled youths, to TV actor and pitchman, to American folk hero ... it wont be the last they have seen and heard of Big George.

Sources

Boston Globe, March 11, 1987.

Ebony, July 1995, pp. 86-92.

Esquire, February 1995, pp. 99-102.

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1996, sect. C, pp. 1, 4.

New York Times Biographical Service, May 1995, pp. 774-775.

Philadelphia Inquirer, September 17, 1989, September 23, 1990.

Sports Illustrated, October 8, 1984, July 17, 1989, January 29, 1990.

Time, July 24, 1989.

Washington Post, January 12, 1990, January 17, 1990.

Mark Kram

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Kram, Mark. "Foreman, George 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Kram, Mark. "Foreman, George 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1997. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871700030.html

Foreman, George 1949—

George Foreman 1949

Professional boxer

At a Glance

Won championship bout with Frazier

An unexpected loss marked a milestone

Sources

George Foreman is an unlikely hero in a savage sport. A former heavyweight champion of the world, Foreman has returned to professional boxing after a ten-year retirement with the idea of regaining his lost crown. Even though he is well over 40an unheard-of age for a boxing comebackhe has earned a respectable record and a chance to meet top-ranked Evander Holyfìeld in a title match. On the seniors boxing tour, wrote William Gildea in the Washington Post, Foreman is undisputed champion. And among the over-40 set hell remain king. Nobody his age would pick on him.

Foremans checkered career includes juvenile delinquency, an Olympic gold medal, dramatic victories and defeats in boxings professional ranks, and years spent as a preacher and youth leader. Even in his years away from boxing he has been the subject of media attentionnot all of it flatteringand his return to the ring has sparked heated debate about his talents and potential. The boxer, a fundamentalist Christian, declares that he has returned to his sport in order to raise money for the youth center he is developing in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. He refuses to concede that his advancing age could weigh against him in a field where stamina and agility factor heavily into most victories. Forty is no death sentence, he told Time magazine. Age is only a problem if you make it one.

If he seems assured at mid-life, Foreman was certainly adrift as a youth. He was bom and raised in the Fifth Ward, a poor neighborhood on the north side of Houston. There he made a name for himself as a brawler, drinker, petty thief, and gang leader, quitting school before he got to the ninth grade. Lester Hayes, a member of the Los Angeles Raiders football team, grew up in the same neighborhood and described the George Foreman he remembered in Sports Illustrated. Foreman, Hayes said, was a very, very big kid and had a reputation for savage butt kickings. That was his forte. So by the early age of 12, I had met George Foreman twice and I found both occasions extremely taxing. Hayes added: I will say this of George. He was a smart gangster in that he would tax you first and then kick your butt. But he wasnt a very nice thing.

Foreman told Sports Illustrated that he thought a hero was someone with a big, long scar down his face, a guy whod come back from prison, a guy [who] maybe killed

At a Glance

Born January 10, 1949, in Marshall, TX; son of J.D. and Nancy (Nelson) Foreman; married five times; fifth wifes name, Joan; eight children, including three sons named George.

Amateur boxer, 1966-68; won gold medal in heavyweight division in 1968 Olympic Games; went professional in 1969; became heavyweight champion of the world, January 22, 1973, by defeating Joe Frazier; lost title to Muhammad Ali in 1974; retired from professional boxing, 1977. Minister and youth leader, 1977-86, working primarily out of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (founded by Foreman) in Houston. Returned to boxing, 1986; defeated in twelve-round championship title bout, April, 1991, against Evander Holyfield.

Addresses: Home H ay ward, CA.

a man once. He even went so far as to wear bandages on his own face so it would seem like he had a scar. Without any proper role models Foreman just drifted, with no clear idea how to make a life for himself. He was growing up in a single-parent family and spending most of his time in the streets. I remember once, he said in Sports Illustrated, two boys and myself, we robbed a guy. Threw him down. I could hold the guy because I was strong, and the sneaky fella would grab the money. And then wed run until we couldnt hear the guy screaming anymore. And then wed walk home as if wed just earned some money on a job, counting it. We didnt even know we were criminals.

One day Foreman was watching television at his Houston home. A commercial came on featuring athlete Jim Brown, one of the few men Foreman actually admired. In the commercial, Brown urged young people to join the Job Corps in order to be somebody. Foreman took the challenge. All alone, the teenager traveled from Texas to Oregon, where he joined a Job Corps camp. All was not rosy right away though Sports Illustrated contributor Richard Hoffer described the youth as principally a thug in a new outfit. Shortly after joining the Job Corps, Foreman was involved in a savage fistfight in the town of Pleasanton, California. When a group of counselors could not pull Foreman off his victim, they called upon the supervisor, Doc Broadus, for help. Broadus stepped in and stopped the fight, noticing in the process that Foreman seemed to be crying out for understanding, that he was indeed a confused boy wasting his strength in fits of frustration.

Broaduss special interest was developing boxers. He took Foreman to the gym and began to teach him how to channel his energy for productive purposes. In a short two years, Foreman developed into a powerful amateur heavyweight. He not only qualified for the 1968 Olympic Games, he won the gold medal in his division. His many victories notwithstanding, Foreman still remembers his moment in the 1968 games as the highlight of his life. He told Sports Illustrated: None of it felt as good as when I was poor and had just won that gold medal, when I wore it so long I had to have the ribbon restitched.

Won championship bout with Frazier

Foreman turned pro in 1969 and began to move through the ranks toward the championship. He made his mark quickly, going undefeated through forty fights and winning more than half of those within two rounds. My opponents didnt worry about losing to me, Foreman told Sports Illustrated. They worried about getting hurt. Despite this track record, Foreman was an underdog when he entered the ring against world champion Joe Frazier in 1973. Frazier had stunned the world by beating Muhammad Ali and was thought to be invincible. Not only did Foreman beat Frazier, he knocked the champion down six times in a brutal TKO victory. Foreman went on to defend his championship belt against Ken Norton, another highly-ranked contender, and knocked him out in less than two rounds.

This set the stage for one of the most dramatic fights in modern history, the October 30, 1974 meeting between Foreman and Ali in Zaire. The crowd of 60,000 was squarely in Alis corner, booing Foreman loudly as he attacked the former champion with flurry after flurry of punches. In Muhammad Ali, Foreman had finally met his match. The wily AH absorbed six rounds of punishment from Foreman, taunting him all the while, and then Foreman was spent. Ali knocked Foreman down in the eighth round, and Foreman was unable to rise before the count of ten. It was his first loss, and it came in spectacular fashion.

The impact of that loss rocked Foreman for years to come. Sports Illustrated correspondent Gary Smith wrote: Out of nowhere, [Foreman] had won adulation by mauling people in a boxing ring; now that he had lost for the first time, he lived with a quiet terror. He couldnt stop spending money or conquering women. He was flailing at love and acceptance the same way he did at Ali, thinking he could win them by exertion of muscle and might. Foreman does not like to dwell on those years now. He admits his life was completely out of control. After Id lost to Ali, he said, Id decided I needed more hate. Id hit you in the kidneys or on the back of the head. Id beat women as hard as I beat men. You psyche yourself to become an animal to box, and thats what you become. A lion sleeps 75 percent of the day, the rest he eats and breedsjust like a boxer.

An unexpected loss marked a milestone

Surrounded by false friends and the useless trappings of a lavish lifestyle (including a lion, a tiger, a $21,000 German shepherd, and a half dozen luxury cars), Foreman more or less made a spectacle of himself. On March 17, 1977, he climbed into the ring in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a match with lightly-regarded Jimmy Young. For Foreman the fight was no more than a tune-up match for a return against Ali, but he lost a twelve-round decision to Young. That fight marked a true milestone in Foremans career. After returning to the dressing room, Foreman became ill and began to be obsessed with death. He told Sports Illustrated that he found himself plunged into a deep, dark nothing, like out in a sea, with nothing over your head or under your feet. Nothing but nothing. A big dark lump of it. And a horrible smell came with it. A smell I havent forgotten. A smell of sorrow. And then I looked around and I was dead. That was it. I thought of everything I worked for. I hadnt said goodbye to my mother, my children. All the money I hid in safe-deposit boxes! You know how paper burns and when you touch it, it just crumbles. That was my life. I looked back and saw it crumble, like Id fallen for a big joke.

Foreman began babbling in his terror and was taken to the hospital. On the way, he said, he felt the saving grace of God restoring him to life. I said, I dont think this is death, he remembered. I still believe in God. And I said that and I was back alive. I could feel the blood flowing through my veins. For a moment, I felt I was somebody.

Foreman became a zealous Christian. He quit the ring and began a new career, preaching on Houston street corners and in fundamentalist churches. Eventually he opened his own church, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in a mobile home. There he ministered to a small flock, trying to avoid the limelight as much as possible.

Even though he had found Jesus Christ, Foreman still had not taken a firm grasp of his life. Within a space of two years1981 to 1983he was married and divorced three times. One of his wives fled to Barbados with the couples two children, and he flew there and literally stole them back. That experience forced him to face yet more unsavory facts about his life. Foreman told Sports Illustrated: Were all like blind men on a cornerwe got to learn to trust people, or well never cross the street. Ive come to find out love is allowing yourself to be weak and vulnerable and hurt. I used to think that was weakness, even after Id become a preacher. All those women that were leaving me were just trying to get me to say I love you like I really meant it, instead of just giving them things.

Between 1983 and 1986 Foreman seemed to have found peace at last. His small church and a gym he had built next to it filled his days. He remarried and fathered the last of three sonsall named George. Gradually, however, the expenditures for the church and gym began to erode what funds he had left from his boxing days. At the same time, some of his eight children were nearing college age. Foreman tried to raise money by serving as a guest minister, but he found that experience humiliating. At the age of forty, he decided to return to the career that has proven so lucrative for him in his twentiesboxing.

Immediately he faced yet another challenge. His love of fast food and home cooking had sustained him through the 1980s, but it had also caused his weight to balloon. He estimates that on his first day back in training he weighed nearly 315 pounds. As reporters scoffed, he announced his intentions to fight and began to work out vigorously, eventually bringing his weight down to 267. Few in the boxing establishment praised Foreman for his comeback, especially when he began to book easy fights against no-name opposition. NBC boxing commentator Ferdie Pacheco told Sports Illustrated: This is pathetic. It shouldnt be allowed. Hes overage, inept. This whole thing is a fraudulent second career to build a money fight with [Mike] Tyson.

Indeed, Foreman did have his eye on Iron Mike Tyson, then the heavyweight champion. Tyson was 10 years old the last time I had a match, Foreman said in the Boston Globe. Im fighting guys he just fought and beating them. It still only takes me one punch. Whump. The power is still there. Foreman proved that power to a certain extent by turning in 20 victories, 19 by knockout, between 1986 and 1990. In January of 1990 he met former contender Gerry Cooney in Atlantic City (a match locally known as The Geezers at Caesars), knocking him senseless in the second round. Despite his constant battles with weight and the slower reflexes of age, Foreman finally signed for a title match, not against Tyson but against 28-year-old Evander Holyfield. That bout, which took place in April of 1991, ended in defeat for Foreman, although he was not easily beatenthe fight went twelve rounds.

With the strikes of age and weight against him, it is unlikely that Foreman will ever win another championship belt. By boxing standards, he is absolutely ancient the best talent can easily dance circles around him. On the other hand, he has accomplished the task he set for himself. The money he has earned since making his comeback has enabled him to build a spacious new athletic center for underprivileged youngsters in Houston. He plans to spend the rest of an active life there, training others in the sport that had provided him with so many ups and downs. I think its a crime for a man whos made as much as me to ask for donations, he told Sports Illustrated. I want kids with murder on their faces. Ill trick em with boxing and sports to get them straightened out and going to school. Reflecting on his unlikely return to boxing prominence, Foreman told the Boston Globe: The second time around is for fun. Weve already been through the serious stuff. After youve been the heavyweight champion, you got nothing to prove.

Sources

Boston Globe, March 11, 1987.

Philadelphia inquirer, September 17, 1989, September 23, 1990.

Sports Illustrated, October 8, 1984, July 17, 1989, January 29, 1990.

Time, July 24, 1989.

Washington Post, January 12, 1990, January 17, 1990.

Mark Kram

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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Kram, Mark. "Foreman, George 1949—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kram, Mark. "Foreman, George 1949—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870300027.html

Kram, Mark. "Foreman, George 1949—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870300027.html

Foreman, George

George Foreman

1949-

American boxer

The George Foreman of today, genial, gentlemanly, and widely popular, bears little resemblance to his early thuggish person. Indeed, some have called him a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in reverse, who transformed himself from the monster into the good and pleasant fellow. He captured the hearts of boxing fans when he reentered heavyweight competitions after ten years away, and managed to recapture the title at the age of 45, twenty years after losing it to Muhammad Ali . Today, a successful entrepreneur, actor, founder of his own church, and a "grand old man" of boxing, George Foreman can smile out at the world. It was not always so.

More Than Enough Fury

George Foreman was born on January 10, 1949, to J.D. and Nancy Foreman, in Marshall, Texas, the fifth of seven children. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Houston, where his mother hoped to find better work. His largely absentee father was a railroad worker, but he usually drank away his salary, so the family generally depended on his mother's earnings at various jobs. As Foreman recalled in his autobiography By George, "There was always more than enough fury in my house, and never enough food." Young George grew up poor and angry, but big. His size and aggression soon earned him respect on the streets of Houston's Fifth Ward, nicknamed "The Bloody Fifth," for the number of knife fights that took place there. After dropping out of junior high, he began a life of petty crime.

By age 16 George Foreman was 6'1" and 185 pounds, and he had already gotten a taste of strong-arm robbery and work as an "enforcer." Then he spotted an ad for the Job Corps on television. He joined up and was sent to Grant's Pass, Oregon, and later to Parks Center, California. All meals were provided, so for once Foreman had enough to eat, and he got a monthly allowance of $30, plus $50 a month held in escrow until he had finished his two-year stint. Still, he could not stop fighting. He got into fights in his dormitory, and in the nearby town of Pleasanton, California. One day, while counselors were trying to pull him off one of his victims, Doc Broadus, a supervisor, stepped in to end the fight. Broadus, a boxing enthusiast, spotted Foreman's obvious potential and decided to channel it into boxing. With help from Broadus, Foreman developed his skills and within two years, he had qualified for the Olympic boxing team.

Chronology

1949 Born January 10, in Marshall, Texas.
1950 (?) Family moves to Houston, Texas
1960s Drops out of junior high school, enters the Jobs Corps, begins boxing
1968 Wins gold medal at Mexico City Olympics
1969 Begins professional boxing
1971 Marries Adrienne Calhoun, December (first of five wives)
1973 Wins World Heavyweight Championship, from Joe Frazier, January 22
1974 Loses championship, to Muhammad Ali, October 30
1977 Born Again, after losing fight to Jimmy Young
1977 Retired from professional boxing
1980-83 Married and divorced three times
1986 Returned to professional boxing
1994 Reclaims WBA and IBF World Heavyweight Championships, against Michael Moorer, November 5
1998 Death of mother

So in 1968, George Foreman headed for Mexico City. This was a difficult time in the U.S., with rioting in the streets in many American cities over civil rights and Vietnam, and there were divisions within the African American community over whether to support U.S. policy. These divisions were on display when two African American track winners, John Carlos and Tommie Smith , stood with clenched fists upraised during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner." Carlos and Smith were ejected from the Olympic Village. Foreman was tempted to join their protest, but Carlos encouraged him to keep on. Foreman did, and he won the gold medal in heavyweight boxing. At the victory ceremony, Foreman waved a small American flag. For some back home, this was seen as a betrayal of Carlos and Smith, and maybe even the civil rights struggle. Feeling that he did not belong in the Fifth Ward anymore, Foreman eagerly snapped up a job offer by Doc Broadus to teach boxing at the Job Corps in Parks Center. He undertook a serious training regimen, avoiding alcohol and smoking.

Turning Pro

George Foreman turned pro in 1969, going up against Don Walheim on June 23, in his first professional boxing match. He won, and by the end of the year he was 13-0, with 11 knockouts to his credit. The following year, he knocked out 11 men, and won his twelfth match by a decision. Foreman was moving up fast, and in 1970, the respected Ring magazine ranked him second among heavyweight contenders. In the next couple of years, he continued his unbroken winning streak, earning twelve straight knockouts. Some grumbled that he had been fighting has-beens and never-wases, but now he had earned his shot to go up against an undisputed champion.

In January 22, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica, he met the much-feared Joe Frazier . As usual, Frazier came out swinging against his opponent, but he was met by a long left and a hard right that sent him to the mat twice in the first round. The crowd was stunned, but the second round was even worse for Frazier, who hit the mat three times. Foreman actually lifted Frazier off the mat with one of his punches, and he signaled to Frazier's corner to call the fight, fearing he might kill the champ. Fortunately, the referee stepped in shortly afterwards, calling the fight for Foreman. The world had a new heavyweight champion.

Champion

At 6'3" and 220 pounds, George Foreman was certainly a powerful champ, but there was more. He seemed to give off an air of menace that reminded some observers of Sonny Liston . It may have been calculated, but there was no doubting that Foreman had a lot of pent-up rage. As he admitted in his autobiography: "I became the stereotypical heavyweight champsurly and angry. If someone asked for an autograph in a restauarant, I'd say, 'What do you think, that I'm going to stop eating and sign my name?' Then my eyes would sweep the room in a mean glare."

That anger did serve him well in the ring. He easily beat his first challenger, Jose "King" Roman on September 1, 1973, with a first-round knockout in Tokyo. Ken Norton was a little harder. That knockout took two rounds, on March 26, 1974, in Caracas, Venezuela. So Foreman was looking secure when he went up against Muhammad Ali, in Kinshasha, Zaire, for the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle." It was not a good setting for Foreman, who missed American food and living space. And there was an element of feeling rejected. As he wrote, "This was clearly Muhammad Ali country. Sentiment in his favor colored how everyone looked at meand they did so incessantly, their eyes following me everywhere." By the time of the match, on October 30, 1974, Foreman was restless and feeling aggressive. He came at Ali with a rapid flurry of punches, but this time Foreman had met his match. Ali absorbed the blows, continually taunting his rival, and then knocked Foreman out in the 8th round. For the first time, Foreman had lostand this time it cost him the heavyweight championship.

Difficult Years

The loss was a severe blow to Foreman's pride. He was devastated. "Now that he had lost for the first time, he lived with a quiet terror. He could not stop spending money or conquering women. Every day for the next 30 days he went to bed with a different womansome days, two," wrote Sports Illustrated reporter Gary Smith. Foreman himself told Smith, "After I'd lost to Ali, I'd decided I needed more hate. I'd hit you in the kidneys or on the back of the head. I'd beat women as hard as I beat men. You psych yourself to become an animal to box, and that's what you become."

Awards and Accomplishments

1968 Gold medal, Mexico City Olympics, heavyweight boxing
1973 World Heavyweight Champion (until 1974)
1994 WBA and IBF Heavyweight Champion (until 1995)

Where Is He Now?

Though George Foreman continued to step into the ring from time totime, his matches never recaptured the magic of that 1994 comeback victo-ry. But George Foreman has not been quiet. In addition to his preaching andcharitable work, including building a spacious new athletic center for chil-dren in Houston, Foreman has become a familiar face. In 1992, ABClaunched a television series called George, in which he starred as an over-weight, middle-aged ex-boxer working with disadvantaged children. It onlylasted eight episodes. But recently, through pitching his low-fat-cooking George Foreman Grills on TV commercials, Foreman has become a familiarface to a new generation.

He lives with his fifth wife, Mary Joan, and he has nine children, includ-ing five sons named George. In July 2000, against her father's wishes, hisdaughter stepped into the ring, winning her first professional boxing matchwith a knockout. In addition to his autobiography, Foreman has also published George Foreman's Guide to Life: How to Get Up Off the Canvas When Life Knocks You Down. If anyone should know how, it's George Foreman.

When he lost a big match to Jimmy Young, on March 17, 1977, Foreman went into a strange cathartic state in the dressing room. He tried to look past the fight, toward other opportunities in his life. "But no matter how hard I focused on positives, my thinking was dominated by death," he wrote in his autobiography. "My pacing back and forth was no longer about cooling down; it was about staying alive. As I fell to the floor of my dressing room, my leg crumpling beneath me, my nostrils filled with the stink of infection. I recognized it instantly as the smell of absolute despair and hopelessness." At that point, he underwent a real religious conversion, embracing Christianity for the first time in his life. He even saw the signs of crucifixion on his own body.

The Road Back

George Foreman returned to Houston, where he began preaching on street corners, in prisons, and in hospitals. He gave up boxing to focus on this new career and even founded his own church, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in a mobile home. He had never felt more at peace with what he was doing. Not that everything went smoothly. Between 1981 and 1983, he was married and divorced three times. One wife fled to Barbados with their children, but Foreman flew there and literally stole them back. Again, he was forced to take a hard look at his life, to try to figure out what he wanted from women, and what they expected from him.

Between 1983 and 1986, he finally achieved some inner peace, preaching at his church. He married again, and had a son named George (like all his other sons). He had also managed to build a small gym next to the church, where neighborhood kids could find alternatives to hanging out on the streets where he had gotten into so much trouble as a youngster. But the money from his boxing days was beginning to run out, and his kids (eight by now, from various wives), were approaching college age. At the age of 40, George Foreman decided to return to the ring.

It was a momentous decision, but one greeted with a lot of skepticism in the sporting world. The boxing world saw a flabby, middle-aged man with a legendary fondness for junk food. The comeback seemed like more of a joke than a serious attempt, but Foreman was seriousand successful. As Gerald Suster wrote in Champions of the Ring, "Big George carried right on eating vast quantities of junk food hamburgers, joking about the factand knocking out everyone they put in front of him, clocking up 19 straight wins by KO from 1987 to 1990."

By April 1991, Big George could not be ignored, and heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield agreed to fight him. The match ended with a Holyfield victory, but by going the distance, Foreman proved that he was no joke. In November 1994, he got another shot at the title, this time against Michael Moorer, who was nearly 20 years his junior. Two minutes in the tenth round, with one walloping punch, George Foreman regained the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles at age 45. It was a remarkable achievement, and forever enshrined him in boxing legend.

In addition to his age, commentators also noted the change in George Foreman from his previous reign. Gone were the snarl and the menacing stance. Instead, a genial and even cheerful man occupied the championship. This newfound popularity was a nice change for Foreman. Due mainly to boxing politics, his title did not last long. In April of 1995, he was stripped of his WBA title when he decided to fight Alex Schultz instead of number-one-ranked Tony Tucker. That fall, he refused to fight Schultz a second time, and for that he was stripped of his IBF title. But nobody could take away that triumph of November 1994 and his new popularity.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: George Foreman Community Center, 2202 Lone Oak Road, Houston, TX 77093-3336.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY FOREMAN:

(With Joel Engel) By George, New York: Touchstone Books, 1995, 2000.

George Foreman's Guide to Life: How to Get Up Off the Canvas When Life Knocks You Down. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Foreman, George, and Joel Engel. By George. New York: Touchstone Books, 1995, 2000.

Foreman, George. George Foreman's Guide to Life: How to Get Up Off the Canvas When Life Knocks You Down. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

Periodicals

Hoffer, Richard. "Fat chance." Sports Illustrated (May 1, 1995): 40.

Hoffer, Richard. "Ko'd." Sports Illustrated (November 14, 1994): 18.

"Judgement call." Sports Illustrated (December 22, 1997): 24.

Putnam, Pat. "No joke: Evander Holyfield discovered that George Foreman was to be taken seriously." Sports Illustrated (April 29, 1991): 22.

Putnam, Pat. "Ungorgeous George." Sports Illustrated (April 20, 1992): 38.

Smith, Gary. "After the fall." Sports Illustrated (October 8, 1984): 62.

Zinczenko, David. "Never count him out." Men's Health (April 1995): 120.

Sketch by Robert Winters

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Foreman, George

George Foreman, 1948–, American boxer, b. Marshall, Tex. A high school dropout, Foreman learned to box in the Job Corps. In 1968 he was the Olympic heavyweight gold medalist. Foreman beat Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight crown in 1973 and defended the title twice before losing to Muhammad Ali. He retired to the ministry in 1977, but launched a comeback in 1987, losing a title fight at age 43. In 1994 Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to win the World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) titles and become the world's oldest heavyweight champion, but he was stripped of the WBA crown in 1995 and relinquished the IBF title the same year.

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