Published in the March 29, 2017 issue of The Bells
Heavyweight champion, minister and entrepreneur are just a few roles George Foreman is known for by his adoring fans. On Wed. March 22, Foreman shared personal life experiences with faculty, staff and community members during the annual McLane Lecture sponsored by Elizabeth and Drayton McLane Jr.
The lecture began with McLane introducing Foreman by describing a few of his accomplishments, including fathering 10 children, five of them named George.
“I was in the room one time and somebody asked him why he named them all George, and he said, ‘if you’ve been hit in the head as many times as I have, you’d name them all George too,’” McLane said to a burst of laughter from the audience.
Foreman set up his lecture by telling about an experience he had sharing his past with one of his sons.
He began with his childhood in Houston’s 5th Ward, where he frequently skipped school. As a teenager, Foreman began stealing and mugging people with other boys in the neighborhood. After one such mugging, Foreman had to hide from the police underneath a house and cover himself with sewage slime to keep police dogs from sniffing him out.
“I said if I get out from under this house, I will never steal anything again.”
Foreman then joined the United States Department of Labor Job Corps to get a fresh start. While at the job corps, Foreman became interested in amateur boxing. He decided to transfer to California to go to boxing school. A year later, he earned a spot on the 1968 US Olympic team, where he competed in Mexico City.
“My mom never wanted me to box. After I told [my mom] I was fighting a Russian, she didn’t even tell me to hurry home and eat, she said, ‘well, bye.’”
Foreman defeated the Russian boxer to become the Olympic Gold medalist in boxing.
“That was probably the happiest moment I’ve had in my athletic career,” Foreman said. “For the first time in my life a dream had come true.”
Foreman began his professional boxing career after the Olympics.
He fought in many matches, before he was matched against the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, Joe Frazier.
“Joe Frazier was the type of fellow that they said you hit and he liked it. If you missed him, he got upset… He had beaten everyone.”
Foreman knocked out Frazier during the second round to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
“I stood in the ring, and I was all those [former] champions in that moment.”
Foreman also recounted his famous match against Muhammad Ali. Foreman survived several rounds before Ali knocked him out.
“When I woke up he was the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, and I had lost the most precious thing to me.”
From there, Foreman trained harder to contend for his spot again. It was after his 12-round loss of a match in Puerto Rico that would decide if he was to regain the title again. It was also that he faced a near-death experience in his locker room and solidified his faith in God.
“As I was walking in my locker room, I heard a voice say, You believe in God, why are you afraid to die?’”
Foreman began making a deal with God that he would give money to cancer and other charities if God would just let him live.
“I heard a voice say within me, ‘I don’t want your money. I want you.’”
Foreman passed out and while he was out he saw everything he’d worked for and realized that he’d gotten distracted by money and the world. At this moment, Foreman realized that there was a God, even if he was about to die.
”I looked up and a gigantic hand pulled me out of this nothing, and I was alive in that dressing room, and I could feel blood flowing through my veins.”
Foreman found himself on a table with blood on his forehead.
“I jumped up off that table and said, ‘Jesus Christ has become alive in me…I fought those men and got into the shower to clean myself, and I screamed a word I’ve never screamed before, ‘I’m clean. Hallelujah, I’m born again.’”
Foreman left his boxing career behind to become a minister of the Gospel for 10 years. However, he was forced to return to the ring to support his family.
At 45 years old, Foreman got another chance to fight for the title against Michael Moorer. In the 10th round, he knocked out Moorer to become the oldest heavyweight champion in the world.
At this point in his speech, Foreman encouraged the students he was speaking to to continue their education and earn a degree.
“Learn how to count. Get an education. And remember it took all those years and even death to realize there’s something greater than my money was the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.”
Music education major Katie Garcia said that although she wasn’t a huge fan of boxing, she enjoyed hearing Foreman speak about persistence.
“Foreman has a lost of spunk and energy for God,” she said. “”He has been through many trials in his life, but did not let his past define his future. Anyone can achieve anything in life as long as they trust in God and never give up.”