Big George on Bernard Hopkins

By Robert Ecksel on October 15, 2011
Big George on Bernard Hopkins
George Foreman waved a small flag while Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists

Former heavyweight champion George Foreman recently had a sit-down with the LA Times.

Among his many accomplishments—defeating Joe Frazier (twice), Ken Norton, and Ron Lyle, not to mention the George Foreman Grill—Foreman was also the oldest man, at age 45, to win a legitimate title when he won the heavyweight crown in 1994.

That longstanding record was broken in May when 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins defeated Jean Pascal in Montreal.

“I’ve only spoken to Hopkins two or three times,” said Foreman, “but I like him. He’s not afraid.”

Being not afraid is something Foreman can relate to. He didn’t know fear. He inspired fear. As he wrote in his autobiography By George, “I was afraid no one would think me special unless I beat them up.”

“I was rooting for him,” Foreman said about Hopkins breaking his record. “I’m happy the bar has been raised. I always said I’ll fight till I get enough money, not till I get enough whupping.”

If Foreman has his way, Hopkins will keep on fighting.

“You might as well,” he said. “There’s not gonna be any Social Security left.”

That’s an amusing remark, and Foreman is nothing if not amusing. But it’s also a jarring remark, especially coming from the man who waved a flag at the same Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists.

“[Hopkins has] just gone on with the training, the sparring,” Big George continued. “He’s stayed in condition. The thing that drives a boxer is that basic fear. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, just thinking that there is somebody out there who can beat you. Boxers never sleep well. You stay desperate. You see that Cadillac in the window and you want it.

“Then you quit, and in two or three years, you find that normal sleep. When I went back to boxing, my wife was afraid to sleep with me. I was edgy and up in the middle of the night and growling.”

Foreman retired in 1977 at the age of 28 and didn’t fight for a decade. He found God, or God found him, became a preacher, and devoted himself to saving men’s souls instead of wrecking their bodies.

Then Foreman began his unlikely comeback in March 1987 with a win over Steve Zouski. Twenty-four fights later he got a title shot, which he lost to Evander Holyfield via decision in 1991.

The icing on the cake was when he starched Michael Moorer to become heavyweight champion at the age of 45.

Hopkins of course never retired. Boxing has been his ministry and fight fans have been his flock. But when he decides to call it a day, Hopkins won’t get restless and return to the ring. He’ll be restless, restless is his middle name, but Hopkins’ restlessness has served him well, and will serve him well in the future.

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  1. Joe 04:33am, 10/15/2011

    Talk about reinventing yourself.  Big George is the perfect example.

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