By Ken Hissner: In a recent article I made about twelve heavyweight champions, one of the comments was I left out “Big” George Foreman! It was oh so right. How did I do that?
In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Foreman defeated fighters from Poland, Romania, and Italy, earning the final match when he stopped Lithuania’s Jonas Cepullis.
Someone handed Foreman a couple of small American flags, and he walked around the ring waving them!
In June of 1969, Foreman turned pro with Dick Sadler as his trainer. The Main Event featured ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier stopping Jerry Quarry at Madison Square Garden. Who knew four years later, he would take Frazier’s title?
Foreman scored eleven wins, ten by knockout, when he defeated Argentina’s Gregorio Peralta, 77-5-8. He stopped George Chuvalo, 59-15-2. In a rematch with Peralta, he stopped him for the vacant Pan Am title. He was 37-0 when he stopped Frazier, 29-0, for the title in Jamaica in January of 1973.
In Foreman’s second defense in Caracas, Venezuela, he stopped Ken Norton, 30-2. He was 40-0 when he faced Muhammad Ali, 44-2, in Zaire, Africa. After seven rounds, he was behind in Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year.” Ali introduced him to “the rope-a-dope!” He kept saying, “Is that all you have, George?”
Foreman punched himself out, hitting Ali’s arms for the most part. In the eighth round, Ali came off the ropes and stopped him. Prior to the fight, Foreman had been cut in sparring and tried to leave the country, but promoter Don King would not allow it.
Fifteen months later, in what I call “one of the greatest heavyweight fights I ever watched,” when he met Ron Lyle, 31-3-1, and trailing after four rounds on two cards and one even. No one was slipping a punch in a war! At 2:28 of the fifth round, he knocked Lyle out!
Then the rematch with Frazier, who shaved his head so the punches would “slip” off of his skull, but it didn’t work. Three knockout wins followed when his life would change fighting Philly’s Jimmy Young, 20-5-2. He was knocked down in the final round, losing a decision and dropping his record to 41-2.
As Foreman was lying on the rubbing table, he got a vision of the Lord and started yelling, “Jesus Christ is alive and coming for me and began to shout Hallelujah, I’m clean and been born again!” He quit boxing for the pulpit.
It would be almost ten years to the day when Foreman returned to the ring. He scored nineteen wins before stopping Gerry Cooney, 28-2, and earned a fight for the title with Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 25-0, losing a decision.
Three wins later, Foreman was outboxed by Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, 36-1, for the vacant WBO title. Though losing, he earned a title fight with IBF and WBA champion Michael “Double M” Moorer, 35-0, behind on points after nine rounds, he scored a knockout at age 45, improving his record to 73-4. He refused to fight Tony Tucker and was stripped of the WBA title.
Next, he won a disputed decision over Germany’s Axel Schulz, 21-1-1, and won two more before his final fight losing a disputed majority decision to Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs, 29-1, in November of 1997 age the age of 48 ending with a 76-5 with 68 knockouts record.
Two years later, he was to fight former champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes. The promoter couldn’t come up with the guaranteed money after giving Foreman one million, and the fight never came off.