If you are familiar with the best Wavemaster punching bag and its performance, then you surely know that George Foreman is a famous American boxer, today retired, who was the world heavyweight champion two times, once in his 20s and once in his 40s. He is also known for this career as a pitchman and entrepreneur, so you can safely say his life has defied logic so far.
The early years
Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1949, George Foreman’s first success came in 1968 when he won the Olympic Gold, and then went on to become the heavyweight world champion in 1973. However, his journey was not an easy nor a normal one, to say the least. One of the main things he is known for is that after a 10-year hiatus, he eventually managed to become world champion a second time, aged 45.
Foreman grew up in Houston’s well-known rough Fifth Ward district, and he was then a self-proclaimed thug that dropped out of school and ran with gangs, until 1965 when he joined the Job Corps. It was this move that created the connection with the boxing world, as he met trainer Doc Broadus.
The athlete proved to be very skilled at boxing and in 1968 he joined the U.S. Olympic Boxing team for the event that took place in Mexico City. He won the gold medal and shortly afterward went professional.
Muhammad Ali – an important moment
Given his impressive body and height, Foreman was a ring presence that instilled fear into his opponents, thanks to his raw power. By 1973, he had already won 37 professional fights, and it was then that he got a chance to fight for the heavyweight champion title against Joe Frazier, in the match that took place on Jan 22nd, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica.
It was then that Foreman managed to shockingly knock down the champ as many as six times and claim the title. However, the joy was short-lived, as the year after, in 1974, he lost to Muhammad Ali in a match known as the “Rumble in the Jungle” which is still debated today.
Ali used a combination of techniques to deflect Foreman’s punches, and then floored him in the eighth round. In fact, this was the only knockout defeat in Foreman’s professional career. The quest for another title was derailed by a match against Jimmy Young, and Foreman decided to retire, claiming he had a religious awakening.
He became a Christian minister and founded a Youth and Community Center located in Houston. However, as time would tell, this was not the end of Foreman’s incredible career.
At age 38, ten years after the fight against Young, Foreman was 50 pounds heavier and enjoyed a very friendly public image. That’s when he decided to return to professional boxing. Even though at first he failed to impress with his win over Steve Zouski, he did manage to work himself back into shape and had many fights, with increasingly better opponents.
He famously fought against Holyfield in 1991, in Atlantic City, and even though he lost, he did earn praise for being able to go the distance against a younger champion. Later, in 1994, the then 45-year old Foreman won the title fight against Michael Moorer, managing to become a world heavyweight champion for the second time, and the oldest one in history.
While some might think that becoming a champ at a young age is impressive, it’s even more so when it comes to a former fighter who managed to get back into shape and work his way toward the title again. This is one of the things that makes Foreman’s career an inspiring one.
Then, in 1997, he lost to Shannon Briggs in a bit of a controversial match which also proved to be his final one before retiring at age 48. He managed to achieve in his professional career a record number of 76 wins, out of which 68 were by knockout, and only 5 losses.
The champion was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003, but in the meantime, he built a new career outside of boxing.
In his words
Foreman’s first years of life didn’t seem to have purpose, until he joined the Job Corps and heard about professional athletes. As he stated in his interviews, he tried to be tough, given that rough environment in which he was living as a kid, but his heart wasn’t really in it. Every time he’d try to be a thug and do something accordingly, such as steal, it would not work well.
It was during the Job Corps time that he felt that someone gave him a chance for the first time and believed in him, when Charles “Doc” Broadus told him that he could be a boxer and that he should go to the gym and start training. According to Foreman, if it wouldn’t have been for this moment, his entire life and career would have gone another way.
After the Olympic games, he made the pro debut in June 1969, and as he said, fear was a very important and determining factor that made him an invincible opponent and knockout artist. He also famously stated in an interview that the only time in his career when he was not afraid was also the only time he truly lost, and it was against Muhammad Ali.
When Foreman met challenger Ali, the former champion and the latter future champion, the outcome seemed to be pretty obvious. However, Foreman did not foresee Ali’s strategy and that fight, nearly four decades later, still remains one of the most discussed ones and among the most popular upsets in this sport’s history.
Even though Foreman said that he did want a rematch with the famous Ali, this never materialized, partly because Foreman retired in 1977, while Ali’s career went on until 1981. The two boxers also appreciated each other, as Foreman stated that he loved being in the ring with Ali. They were friends and supported each other throughout their careers.
Life after boxing
After proving that one can make a real comeback in boxing, even after the age of 40, Foreman retired and pursued other types of highly successful ventures. Starting from 1994, when the Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine made its debut, Foreman became a successful commercial pitchman, and he remained quite busy even after leaving boxing a second time.
He also continued to preach – his church is located in Houston- and also remained close to the world of sports by joining HBO Sports’ broadcast team for boxing. The meat grill idea proved to be a multi-million dollar one, so it’s definitely a successful path he took, that continued to bring very important revenues even after he retired from boxing.
There’s also quite an interesting story that Foreman tells about how he got the idea in the first place. Apparently, it was during the match with Muhammad Ali when he got knocked out and, during those instances, he had a hallucination, namely, he saw a piece of meat that talked and demanded to be grilled.
Whether this actually happened or not, we won’t ever know, but the idea brought Foreman a great deal of money. The former champion has other ventures besides the famous grill products, and some of these include several books, a clothing line, and even a 2008 reality show that didn’t live for a very long time.
This featured Foreman’s wife and their 10 children, out of which five boys are named George. Foreman has been married more than once – his marriage to his current wife, Joan, is the fifth one. His family is numerous, and today he has 12 children from his marriages and separate relationships, as well as adopted ones.
In 2016, Foreman turned to reality TV once more and starred in the show called Better Late Than Never produced by NBC. This was a reality-travel series that included Henry Winkler, William Shatner, and Terry Bradshaw as well, and the stars traveled around the world, exploring various foreign cultures, and checking things off their bucket lists.
The TV show was renewed for a second season which premiered in January 2018, but it eventually got canceled altogether. However, this doesn’t make Foreman any less successful in his multiple ventures, or less of an inspiration for aspiring boxers that want to really perform and go pro in this sport.