GEORGE FOREMAN MEDIA CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Mark Taffet Welcome everybody. Thanks for joining us this afternoon for the HBO “Mayweather/Pacquiao: Legends Speak” Conference Call. We have our special guest today, one of the all-time great legends and Hall of Famer, George Forman.
George has been in more super fights than many of us frankly have actually attended or watched. He has mega fight credentials like no one in history. Back on October 30 of 1974, the world stopped and watched as George Foreman had his epic fight against Mohammed Ali from Zaire and I am particularly proud to say that George fought Evander Holyfield in HBO pay-per-view’s very first fight back on April 19, 1991, and it was a night that all of us will never forget.
I can’t think of someone who might shed more genuine insight and perspective into what type of preparations Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are going through as they get ready for the May 2 mega fight and George was gracious enough to sit on a roundtable panel a few weeks ago that we conducted for a really, really special show appearing Saturday night called, “Mayweather/Pacquiao The Legends Speak.”
That panel included George Foreman, Bernard Hopkins, and Lennox Lewis who participated respectively in the Foreman Ali fight in Zaire. Hopkins trended that fight at Madison Square Garden for the middleweight championship right after 9/11 and Lennox Lewis’ fight against Mike Tyson from Memphis in 2002. They will be joined by Max Kellerman as a moderator on that panel and we will also have on that show the five men who fought both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. That’s Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, and Shane Mosley.
So now with no further adieu, I want to remind you that that show “Mayweather/Pacquiao The Legends Speak” is going to air Saturday night immediately following our big heavyweight championship showdown from Madison Square Garden with Wladimir Klitschko taking on Bryant Jennings which starts at 10pm ET on HBO. We’ve only got George for a short time so we’re going to let him take over from here and speak a little and take questions from you. So let’s get started.
George, do you have anything to say? You want to just keep a little bit of an overview of what it’s like being you and going through the history we talked about?
George Foreman: Yes. It’s really good and I was really happy to be part of the panel to kind of describe because it brought back old memories I thought I had put to rest especially with the big fight of Mohammed Ali, George Foreman in Zaire and what it felt to be the one guy who knows what it’s all about to be undefeated and fight for the championship of the world for a guy who has been defeated more than once. I had that perspective and know what it feels not only to be in that position but to be knocked off that pedestal, not only lose the title, but to win with the (unintelligible).
I’ve been a fighter who’s been defeated. So with the panel, I will ask questions like that and how do I feel it’s going to go. The bigger puncher or the better boxer. I had all kind of thoughts on that and I was able to express swiftly with the HBO show coming up. So if you guys would like to ask any questions on how I feel about it…
Question: Hi. Thank you for putting me on the call. It’s quite a pleasure to talk to George Foreman. I have a couple of questions for the champ. Hello George.
George Foreman: Yes sir.
Question: Assuming Wladimir Klitschko beats Brian Jennings, and I think it’s the prevailing belief that he will, regarding Klitschko in his place in boxing history George, is he overrated, is he underrated? How should American fans in media think of his place in heavyweight championship history? They seem confused.
George Foreman: Confused is what it’s all about. Klitschko has had a good career. A lot of his fights have been out of the country as though he hasn’t even been invited into the real heavyweight picture in the United States. He’s a good fighter. You can’t talk about him unless you can beat him and it doesn’t seem that there’s anyone around who can truly beat him. The guy is good enough to be heavyweight champ of the world. No one can take that away from him unless you beat him. That’s all I can say. Words can’t dethrone him.
Question: George, why do you think Americans have lost interest in heavyweight boxing in the heavyweight championship? I mean, things are clearly not how they were when men like you, Ali, Fraser and the rest of those icons were active. What’s happened?
George Foreman: No. I mean, it’s like a vacuum cleaner for outer space. We are looking for heavyweights. We are searching everywhere. Looking under beds and under the rocks. Looking for great heavyweights. There just aren’t any around and if there were, we could take over but for some reason everybody’s got the glamour of all the other sports. Basketball, football, baseball has taken over but boxing will be back. Heavyweights will come on the scene and you won’t have to worry about who is heavyweight champ of the world. His name will ring loud but it will be an American.
Question: What do you think about Shannon Briggs still sticking around fighting, sticking around boxing, particularly at that advanced age, his social media campaign against Wladimir Klitschko? Real life – it seems like he’s stalking him in real life. Can he be the George Foreman of his time? He certainly claims to be. Can he regain the title?
George Foreman: I don’t think he was very good when he was real good and now he’s not very good. I guess you can read that but it’s nice to have an American heavyweight we can talk about. I can tell you that so let it be.
Question: Right and George, just one other thing. What do you recall about a possible Mike Tyson fight that might have taken place with you and Mike Tyson back in 1991 what? I think that was when the window was most open. The fight didn’t happen. Why?
George Foreman: In that strange because some things evidently are not meant to happen. To punchers meeting in the middle of the ring, neither one is looking to retreat or backpedal, that would’ve been one of the greatest heavyweight fights of all time. Great heavyweight. I mean, no jabbing, hiding out of the way, coming to us, I wish it had happened for boxing sake, but glad it didn’t happen for my own safety.
Question: Hey George Foreman. Pleasure to be on the line with you. Appreciate you taking the time my friend. My question is very direct. Who is going to win May 2, Mayweather or Pacquiao and how?
George Foreman: I picked Pacquiao to win six rounds and I think the seventh round will be even. Mayweather comes only but because he starts slow, it’s going to be too late. If you’re looking for some good judging, this fight will be one by one round over by Pacquiao on point.
Question: Maybe by – maybe by a single round. So the judges are going to screw it up. Is that right George?
George Foreman: If we’ve got good judges this time, it’s go Pacquiao – Mayweather starts off early kind of looking for his timing and this guy actually – Pacquiao will pop shot him and get ahead on points and he’ll stay ahead. He’ll slow down later on and Mayweather will take on the more aggression but he doesn’t have a right hand. He’ll hurt his right hand. He can’t get a knock-out. So he’ll just have to cruise on in and win or lose the fight just by a couple of points.
Question: Alright. A couple of points and you expect it to be a good fight, or a great fight, or will it not be able to exceed expectations?
George Foreman: I think for those who really are pure, the laws of boxing, it’s going to be a fantastic, amazing boxing match. One that is going to live up to all the hype. It really will.
Question: Will live up to all the hype. Excellent and last one sir. We tried to build our narratives as writers. A lot of people are trying to portray this is good versus evil. Mayweather likes to brag about his money a lot, show big stacks of bills and in a world in which there so much poverty, a lot of people find that to be repulsive. I’m wondering do we writers make too much of that trying to build up the good versus evil narrative or is there actually something to that?
George Foreman: There’s never been a great fight without the writers taking on and finding an identity for it. That’s probably what has happened boxing. Writers are not writing about us big boys anymore and I tell you right, however you feel, take something, find it, and use it because American needs something to read about. Not to see on television, but to read about. Let the writers take over.
Question: Let the writing take over.
George Foreman: Yes.
Question: Excellent. I’m saying that to the masses and all the social classes. I appreciate it George. Be well.
George Foreman: The only thing that Mayweather has going for him, and I’m going to tell you, he’s an American.
George Foreman: He’s got that going for him and nobody can take that from him.
Question: You kind of touched on it earlier. The division, in particular, has become very international. Klitschko hasn’t really fought in the US. I think maybe a big part of it has been the breakup of the Soviet Union and allowing all of these Russian fighters to be in a division that might not have participated before. I guess my question is do you think this internationalization, for lack of a better word of the sport, is a positive for boxing even if it’s become less popular in the United States
George Foreman: Yes. It’s the best thing that ever happened to boxing. All of the international guys that come in, all the talent from around the world, it helped boxing to make it great and everybody’s going to be on the edge of their seat watching the outcome of this fight because of the international flavor. It’s great for boxing and wherever hunger is, you’re going to have the best fighters. There seem to be more hungry guys from Russia
Question: I’m just wondering how often you have had a chance to see Jennings fight and what’s your assessment of his skills and his advantages?
George Foreman: Don’t know much about them. Wish I knew more about him but it’s going to really take someone special to dethrone Klitschko. It’s just – the guy is tall and believe me, a lot of people don’t understand that he’s the product of America. Emanuel Stewart teamed up with him and taught him how to stay on the jab and let him study it this guy is not really what you call an international fighter. He has cloned the American style. He’s got it.
Question: Hey George. It’s such a pleasure talking to you. Big fan. Connected to the Mayweather and Pacquiao a little bit earlier. What does a counter puncher, a pure counter puncher like Mayweather have to do against a busy puncher like Pacquiao to win?
George Foreman: The story of a counterpunch is that they are not going to do anything until you do something. It’s like, throw your punch. He said, wait because I’m waiting for him to throw his first. That’s why with a counter puncher against Pacquiao, you’re going to have to throw hard shots because you’ve got to get him dizzy and go for the finished two or three times and that’s what Mayweather is going to have to do. He can’t wait and hit later on. He’s going to have to throw combination and seek – you’re not going to get a knockout that easy but try anyway early on to stay ahead on point.
Question: We’ve seen Mayweather in the past often quite up and raise his shoulder up and use that defense and then kind of perform surgery on his opponents and pick them apart in later rounds. Do you think that can possibly work against Pacquiao and all his movement?
George Foreman: Well, he can only raise his shoulders and use that counter punching if somebody is attacking. Pacquiao is really a pop shot artist. He jabs you, moves to the side, sticks his head in, throws a punch from different angles. It’s hard to really get a counterpunch in or it’s not that easy on the guys he’s been facing. Mayweather is by far a defense of genius but believe me, to win these rounds, you’re going to have to become an offensive technician.
Question: Good afternoon George. I just have one question. You feel that too many comparisons are being made for the super fight of Mayweather versus Pacquiao to where their places in history instead of on the merits of the fight itself?
George Foreman: I think it’s a wonderful thing. We really like the idea to resurrect those old guys from the past. Keep it going. Keep comparing. I mean, comparing us. I mean, the families of Sugar Ray Robinson, the families of Joe Lewis or whoever. All these names are thrown out there and it gives us a chance to live again. I think the comparisons are good although this is a great fight by itself
Question: Hey George. Thanks for having us. Really quick – just sort of the premise of this call. I wanted to ask you what it’s like to be a fighter in a fight of this magnitude and you’ve been in that with Ali in Zaire and this is the biggest fight of the century. As a fighter, what is it like to be involved in this for these guys do you think?
George Foreman: This is probably for both Pacquiao and Mayweather the most lonely hours they’ve ever had in their life because you can train, you can have 1,000 people around you, but there’s no one truly to talk this over with. You’ve got to spend a lot of time within yourself. I remember that so much in those big fights how lonely it was because there is a conversation that can be discussed. No one can – you can only talk it over with you, inside you, and the bigger the fight is, the greater that conversation in the greater you have to go inside of yourself. It’s lonely. It’s more than lonely.
Question: Hey George. Hopping back in queue. I wanted to get your take on Floyd Mayweather not backing off of what he said a couple of days ago. He said, yes, he’s the greatest of all time. He’s the best ever. He said, Ali, yes he was great but he only did it in one weight class. I wanted to get your take on that. What are your thoughts?
George Foreman: Mayweather – and this fight, everything that he says amounts to be like one of those guys in church saying, ‘amen, amen,’ and the more he says it, the more you want to ‘amen’ him and become friends with him. Maybe he will loan you a couple of bucks.
The guy is that good. Even if you don’t like him, he’s good enough for you. I mean, you’ve got to be very good to have someone dislike you.
Mohammed Ali, George Foreman, we’ve had our day. I mean, look, we can’t do anything to help the future of boxing matches. Mayweather can. We’ve got to cheer for him. If that’s what he needs to do his talk, great.
Question: Hello George. You talked in an earlier question about the loneliness factor. I’d like to talk about something similar which is the pressure that the two fighters must be feeling. How did you deal with the pressure of the eyes of the world upon you and how do you think Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao are doing dealing with the pressures upon them right now?
George Foreman: I think Pacquiao has a little better because he’s already picked as the underdog. There’s not a whole lot of pressure on him but once you ever get into a boxing match of this nature and you’ve never lost before, you wake up in the morning, your heart is beating, you go to bed with a fast beat. You’re nervous. There’s so much pressure on Mayweather. More pressure probably than any athlete around right now because he’s undefeated so to speak.
Question: How devastating do you think a loss would be to Mayweather at this point in his career?
George Foreman: Once you’re – I was in that position when I lost to Mohammed Ali. It wasn’t like I lost the title. You lose your perspective of who you are as a human being. This could really knock him out that’s why I don’t think there can easily be a rematch if Mayweather loses because you have to go out into the mountains somewhere, the hills somewhere, to try to find himself all over again. This could devastate him as a boxer, not as a man, but as a boxer, this could devastate him, a loss.
Question: So I guess the potential for a rematch would be, in your eyes, not likely if Mayweather lost. Would you see a rematch if Pacquiao was the loser?
George Foreman: Mayweather is still in the driver seat. It wouldn’t change things much. That’s why it’s very important that Pacquiao takes advantage of this being the underdog. Here are, a great fighter like he is, and underdog. All he has to do is be himself and win that fight through every round, one after another, and if he doesn’t, then he’s going to put on a good show because that’s all he knows. So he went to matter what.
George Foreman: Guys, make sure you have a lot of fun. Remember boxing is in its heyday all over again. I’m happy. I’m just so happy for boxing
George Foreman: Thank you.