By: Sean Crose
We live in an era where branding is absolutely everything. A fighter who can’t market himself or herself effectively is going to have a hard time career-wise, no matter how good he or she is. That’s why fighters such as Ryan Garcia are held at such a premium, because they have a tendency to back up the image. Rarely, however, can a fighter have two, count ’em, two complete ring careers where it seems the only thing that’s similar is the name. If you find those words confusing, don’t be alarmed. Just sit back and ponder the two boxing careers of the great George Foreman.
Born to a hard knock life in Houston, Foreman went from being a tough kid to an Olympic star. “Big George” then turned pro, winning the heavyweight championship of the world in the early 70s by absolutely battering poor Joe Frazier around a Jamaican ring for a few rounds. It was the biggest one sided beating since Dempsey thrashed Willard way back in the day, and people took notice. It was hard not to notice now that a towering man with thunderous power in each gloved fist held the heavyweight championship of the world.
Enter one Muhammad Ali, past thirty and arguably past his prime. No one, or at least not many, thought “The Greatest” would prove to be just that against the likes of Foreman. By employing a brilliant and dangerous “Rope a Dope” strategy, however, Ali let Foreman punch himself out before dropping the big man in Zaire during the famous “Rumble in the Jungle.” Foreman lost his title that night, and things only got worse for him from there.
Yet a religious experience in the late 70’s turned Foreman’s life around. Ferocious George Foreman went on to be Reverend George Foreman, a Christian who talked the talk and walked the walk. Looking back, perhaps no one should be surprised that the ordained minister returned to the fight game and, after being laughed at for while, ended up regaining the heavyweight title. Foreman’s stunning one punch knockout of defending champ Michael Moorer is still the stuff of legend – especially when one considers the fact that Foreman was 45 years old at the time.
Now thoroughly retired, Foreman has long been a ubiquitous and – one must assume – insanely well paid spokesperson for numerous products, namely the famous George Foreman Grill. Good for him. He’s known for his generosity and he certainly isn’t the type to flaunt his hard earned wealth.
It’s Foreman’s 72’nd Birthday today, and the guy has undoubtedly learned a lot of lessons throughout his decades of public life. One lesson people – especially young boxers – can learn from Foreman, however, is that nice guys don’t always finish last.