By Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson
Millennials may associate George Foreman with a grill that sits on the kitchen counter, but boxing fanatics remember the 1968 Olympic Gold medalist way before the lean, mean fat-reducing grilling machine days.
George Foreman’s career spanned a pretty long time with epic fights with Muhammad Ali, ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. Foreman was a force to be reckoned in the heavyweight ranks and became world champion by 1973.
Deemed an epic fight in the 20th century, Foreman and Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle bout in 1974 was won by Ali via knocked out.Foreman, then champion was the favorite to win as he had ascended up the ranks and Ali had a lot to prove. But so did Ali. who was stripped of his title in 1967 and suspended from boxing for more than three years for refusing to enlist in the U.S. Army and serve his country in Vietnam. Foreman marveled at Ali’s resilience earlier this week on CBS Radio’s Brown and Scoop on Play.it.
“Muhammad Ali beat me fair and square,” said Foreman. “He caught on to my style. Muhammad Ali’s asset was probably that he was always underestimated. He was a big guy, a lot of people didn’t know that. He’d talk a lot of trash and then run out of the way and you start chasing him and you forget that he was a big giant with a great quick right hand.”
There have been many documentaries chronicling the two’s battles in and out the ring, one of the most notable was, Ali, a drama headlined by Will Smith, who played Muhammad Ali, as well as other notables like Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles and Jeffrey Wright.
“Can you imagine how I spent many of years explaining how I lost to Muhammad Ali and then having to explain how I lost to Will Smith in the movie,” laughed Foreman.
Foreman never got a rematch and would retire in 1977. The two became friends after the fight. Foreman attended Ali’s funeral this spring.
Philadelphia legend, Smokin’ Joe Frazier is a fighter that Foreman and Ali had in common. Foreman beat him twice. Frazier and Ali was a different story. Their first fight, dubbed The Fight of The Century, March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden, Frazier won in 15 rounds. The second fight in 1974 was won in a 12 round decision and their last fight, The Thrilla in Manila in 1975, was won with an Ali knockout.
“We were both afraid of Joe Frazier,” said Foreman. “I beat him of course. He beat Muhammad the first match, but for some reason, we always got confused. We thought Joe Frazier was 10 feet tall, when he was not tall at all. For some reason, the bell would ring, no one stood up to Joe Frazier; he came after you.”
Foreman later stepped back into the ring after a 10-year hiatus. He fought the likes of Shannon Briggs and ‘The Real Deal’ Evander Holyfield. Foreman even shocked the world when he beat Michael Moorer and became world champion in 1994, a second time at the age of 45. But dig this, he broke three records when that happened. With his knockout of Moorer, he became the oldest fighter ever to win the World Heavyweight Championship; 20 years after losing his title for the first time. Foreman also broke the record for the fighter with the longest interval between his first and second world championships.
George Foreman fought many greats in a span of 18 years. But he never fought Mike Tyson.
“Mike Tyson fought everyone, he wasn’t afraid of anyone,” said Foreman. “But for some reason I couldn’t get him. I just don’t know why, I tried.”
It’s been said that Tyson was afraid to fight 41-year-old Foreman; the same Foreman who Evander Holyfield would fight and beat in April of 1991. Holyfield got into the ring twice with Tyson, winning both; the first in a referee decision,the second, where Tyson was disqualified from the match after biting a piece of Holyfield’s ear off during the match.
Nevertheless, any pro’s pro will tell you that a fight of that magnitude would be a huge draw. So who the heck would have won if they fought?
“I know one thing, If I fought Mike Tyson, I’d come back with both ears,” laughed Foreman.
After boxing, Foreman has been busy as ever, doing commercials, still the pitchman for his George Foreman Grill and keeping up with his seven grandkids. Speaking of food, grills and kids, did you know that Foreman and his wife have ten kids and the five boys each have the name George? How the heck did the champ keep their names straight?
“You just cook and they come,” he said. “There’s no formula. When my wife says their middle name, then you know there’s trouble.”
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. You can catch him daily on CBS Radio’s Play.it Brown And Scoop Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit www.ScoopB.com and www.ScoopBRadio.com.