GEORGE AND THE JUNGLE - Competition Winner

GEORGE AND THE JUNGLE - Competition Winner

‘Sports are sports. It’s all about how we carry ourselves out of the ring.’

 George Foreman


'BVB writer, Paul Zanon is currently working with prisoners at HMP Thameside using the power of sports writing to help them develop into wordsmiths. We are delighted to support his efforts by donating a prize to the winner of a competition he ran with the prisoners, which involved writing a biographical piece about ‘Big George Foreman. The winning entry is below.’


He was known for his mean steady stare upon facing his opponents in the square ring, blasting foe after foe. However, George Foreman actually became a household name with a grilling machine.

Born on 10 January 1949 in Marshall, Texas, Foreman was an impoverished and troubled youth who  often bullied and lacked discipline to not only attend school, but to get out of bed in the morning. With a lack of structure in his life, Foreman grew to become a street robber, engaging in brawls on the mean streets of Houston by the time he was 15 years old.

The Texan native was saved by all intents and purposes by a program named the Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps which was developed to assist disadvantaged kids in acquiring job skills. Foreman headed west to California where he made the acquaintance of a man named Doc Broadus, who was a counsellor for the Job Corps, but also a boxing coach. It is indeed Broadus who was responsible for encouraging Foreman to take up boxing.

It wasn’t long before Foreman racked up an impressive catalogue of amateur boxing wins, the peak of which came at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he secured a gold medal in only his 25th amateur bout. The limelight shone longer as he celebrated the win by brandishing and wearing an American flag, a photo which soon became iconic and synonymous with the Olympian. In his autobiography, By George, Foreman said, ‘I was waving the flag as much for myself as for my country. I was letting everyone know who I was and at the same time saying that I was proud to be American.

Foreman winning the Olympics 1968

The following year, in 1969, at 20 years of age Foreman turned professional and became the No.1 ranked challenger within two years by the WBA and WBC. Before the end of 1972, Foreman accumulated a perfect record of 37-0 which included a staggering 35 victories by way of KO.

Foreman’s stock continued to rise as he got his chance to fight for the world heavyweight title when he fought in Jamaica on 22 January 1973. His opponent, Joe Frazier was the bookies favourite going into the bout, but Foreman had other ideas. The Houston colossus knocked Frazier down six times, stopping him in the second round. The television network, HBO hosted the fight as an unprecedented TV audience watched Foreman defy the odds to become heavyweight champion of the world.

Foreman vs Frazier 1973

Eight months later Foreman travelled to Japan, annihilating Puerto Rican heavyweight champion, Jose Roman in a mesmerising 50 seconds, which at the time was the shortest heavyweight championship contest ever. Six months later, Ken Norton, who had just beaten the legendary Muhammad Ali in a contest which saw the Greatest’s jaw broken, was obliterated by Foreman, in just two rounds. The victories over two supreme boxers in Frazier and Norton set up what would be one of the most famous fights in history known as ‘The Rumble in the Jungle.’

Foreman vs Norton 1974

After Ali’s defeat to Norton and Foreman’s victory over the same opponent, Foreman, eight years younger, was the bookies favourite going into the fight and it seemed Ali had bitten off more than he could chew. For the first seven rounds and part of the eighth, Foreman bombarded Ali with punches, however, Ali managed to evade harm by outwitting the champion with a tactic later known as the ‘Rope-a-Dope.’ As Ali lay on the ropes from the outset with his guard up, Foreman threw hundreds of clubbing hooks to the body and head of Ali, expecting the older man to fall. Instead, by the end of eighth round, Foreman was spent. In the ninth session, Ali turned the tables unleashed a series of accurate punches to Foreman’s head and the champ folded onto the canvas, unable to make the count of 10. Ali had done the unthinkable, and in stopping the man mountain he also regained the heavyweight championship of the world.

Foreman vs Ali 1974

After the Ali defeat, Foreman didn’t fight in 1975, but when he did in 1976, his first fight against Ron Lyle for the North American Boxing Federation Heavyweight title was a barnburner. Foreman won via fifth round knockout stoppage in what was awarded 1976 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. He also won his next four fights by KO, which included a rematch with old foe, Joe Frazier. However, on 17 March 1977 at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Foreman lost a points decision to Jimmy Young. It was after this fight in the dressing room that Foreman had what he described as a religious experience, which led him to quit boxing and become a born again Christian.

Foreman began preaching in his hometown after being ordained a minister in 1978. He also set up a project for kids that existed when he was a juvenile, with the intention of providing direction to those in need. In 1984 he named the establishment The George Foreman Youth and Community Center. However, by this stage of his life Foreman was struggling financially and was advised to close the Center. Foreman came up with an alternative plan. After a 10-year gap of inactivity, Foreman decided to return to the ring to get the cash once again.

Although there was plenty of criticism from detractors, they were all proved wrong as he compiled 24 consecutive wins on his comeback trail, with only one contest lasting the distance. At the ripe age of 42, Foreman’s achievements and popularity granted him a chance to fight for the heavyweight title against undefeated two-weight world champion, Evander Holyfield. The bout went the full 12 rounds, with Holyfield winning by points decision, but Foreman won the hearts of the public, not to mention a great deal of respect and credibility.

Foreman vs Holyfield 1991

After taking another year out of the ring, despite his age and with the help of his promoter, Bob Arum, Foreman’s stock rose in the IBF rankings, albeit many cited bribery to manipulate the rankings to get Foreman into a position to challenge yet again for a world title. Either way, on 5 November 1994 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Foreman took on world heavyweight champion, Michael Moorer for the WBA and IBF titles. Going into the tenth round, Foreman was heavily behind on the scorecards and in need of a knockout to gain victory – and that’s exactly what he provided, with a one-two that kept Moorer on the canvas for the full 10 count. Foreman addressed the naysayers by saying, ‘Sure the fight was fixed. I fixed it with a right hand.’ Foreman was now a two-time world champion and in doing so became the oldest world heavyweight champion in history.

Foreman vs Moorer 1994

In March of 1995 Big George was stripped of the WBA title after refusing to fight their No.1 contender and three months later he resigned the IBF crown. In 1997, Foreman retired from boxing for good, with a very impressive record of 76 wins (68 by KO), with just five losses. His only ever stoppage defeat was at the hands of Ali. Having more than paid his penance to the square circle, Foreman was rightly inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.

During his second coming of boxing in the 90’s, Foreman also discovered a talent for salesmanship, lending his name to market products such as the George Foreman Grill, in addition to launching environmentally friendly cleaning products. Despite not making the cash he’d hoped on his ring return, it is estimated that Foreman made nicely over $100 million with his Lean, Mean, Grilling Machine.

Young George 

If you’re looking to find Foreman these days, look no further than The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ where he tends to his ministry. Failing that, you can catch him on the big screen in his biopic, ‘Big George Foreman.’

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