The George Foreman Addiction

By George Thomas Clark on December 6, 2014
The George Foreman Addiction
While young Mexican corpses rot in graves of dissent, Foreman displays the American flag.

You’re growling on the living room floor. You don’t growl during football and basketball games. Why now? You’re not the only animal…

If you watch George Foreman fight, admit it. You’re not seeking ballet. You yearn to see men hit hard in the head and knocked senseless or out, and you’re probably not to blame. Your addiction to Foreman happens unexpectedly, during the ‘68 Olympics. TV schedules aren’t as precise in those days, and you think you’ll be watching Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Jimmy Hines set world records in sprints. You want to see Bob Beamon soar in the long jump. You’re excited about Kip Keino and Jim Ryun dueling over fifteen hundred meters. You only find George Foreman by accident. You haven’t imagined a nineteen-year-old Hercules who batters opponents with jabs like a felled tree swinging horizontally from a chain, and insist you don’t entirely enjoy seeing Russian miner Ionas Chapulos catching those jabs, bleeding in the first round, and getting hammered by combinations in the second. You’re watching for patriotic reasons. While Smith and Carlos extend black gloves of protest on the medal stand, and thousands of fresh young Mexican corpses rot in graves of dissent, George Foreman displays the American flag and bows in four directions.

In honor of his patriotism you resolve to support George as a pro. Discharging thunder with each hand he knocks out his first seven opponents before winning by decision. After three more destructions you forgive him when another foe survives the distance, and you’re likewise understanding when he only stops three more before having to go ten rounds against Gregorio Peralta and even losing some of those en route to a unanimous decision. George Foreman agrees with you. Something ain’t right if the opponent’s still standing at the final bell. Eating and exercising more, and swinging wider and harder, the surly young man bombards most foes early and knocks out a stunning twenty-four straight. Even granite-head George Chuvalo is helpless by the third, and George yells at the referee to stop the fight or he’ll kill Chuvalo, the same man who before and after this goes the distance with Muhammad Ali.

Most astonishing is George’s fight against Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight title in January ‘73. Smokin’ Joe’s also undefeated and has pulverized most opponents. And he’s the favorite. Experts say he’s going to be too quick for Foreman. You fear they’re correct. Instead, in the first round big George manhandles the champion and lands a powerful overhand right to his head that causes a friend, sitting next to you in the pay-per-view theater, to jump up. A rough voice behind says sit down. What a foolish sentiment. Soon everyone’s standing and roaring as Foreman floors Frazier three times and thrice more in the second, sometimes launching the champ into the air and once knocking him down as, in a stupor, he turns and tries to dash away.

Two fights later you’re worried. Ken Norton, breaker of Ali’s jaw and twice his conqueror, though only once officially, is going after George’s crown. As fighters receive final instructions you’re relieved that sculpted Norton looks rather slender next to Big George who lands a right hand under the heart and pursues a retreating challenger in the first round. Muhammad Ali provides ringside commentary and optimistic belief that his nemesis Norton is fighting well and says he’s proud of him. A couple of minutes later George’s pounding Norton with right hands an elephant might throw and Norton falls into the ropes and receives an eight-count and soon catches a thudding left that knocks him against the ropes and then eats a right uppercut and goes down to end this fight.

You feel sorry for Muhammad Ali. The only two men who’ve beaten him up are inadequate against ill-tempered George Foreman. Why doesn’t Ali simply retire? He’ll never regain the title. Foreman will kill him in Africa in ‘74. Even after being cut and unable to spar for a month while he trains for the postponed fight, Foreman’s favored by smart guys like you. He’ll nail Ali with some of those slow wide punches he’s launching. Ali shouldn’t be on the ropes. You and the fans in the big-screened auditorium think he’s making it easier for George. But Joe Frazier tells people near ringside he doesn’t think heavy-breathing George is going to make it. Joe’s jealous. You know George’ll soon settle this. When Ali erupts from the ropes and fires a right popping his chin, you’re sure he’ll get up and, at the count of ten, he does.

George Foreman doesn’t fight in ‘75. He comes back angry early in ‘76 against ex-con Ron Lyle who almost flattens him with a right cross in the first round. George staggers and holds and survives. In the second he hurts Lyle. In the fourth, however, Lyle knocks George down and moves in for destruction. But George then floors Lyle and prepares to finish him. Lyle responds by decking George. You’re growling on the living room floor. You don’t growl during football and basketball games. Why now? You’re not the only animal. This slugfest is voted fight of the year, and in the fifth round poor Lyle catches many undefended headshots and collapses.

A few months later George again overwhelms Joe Frazier and stops three other guys before facing slick Jimmy Young in ‘77. Young’s a smaller, lighter-hitting version of Ali. He can’t win by knockout. But George can. There it is, a huge left in the seventh round, and Young’s ready to go. He’s hiding but George is after him. He’s going to get him. He almost does but Young survives and plays mister graceful and wears George out and even puts him down briefly late in the twelfth before exhausted George arises and chases a ghost. In the loser’s dressing room he’s sucked into hell before God rescues him and demands he quit fighting and start preaching. George Foreman complies, and you say farewell to the greatest slugger ever.

You’re distressed but know you’ll survive. Ken Norton and Larry Holmes pound each other for fifteen rounds in ‘78. And Ali again reclines against the ropes, this time for fifteen rounds against smaller Leon Spinks, who should’ve been his sparring partner but now’s world champ. There are young slugger’s aplenty. Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran are in their prime and hammering people. But these biggest stars are little guys. You want some heavyweight power and in the mid-‘80s are thankful Iron Mike Tyson appears and destroys everyone in the ring and some outside.

And in ‘87, ten years after his last fight, George Foreman says he’s coming back. He needs money for his ministry. That’s no doubt true but you know he misses hitting people in the head. Fans of demolition don’t think Foreman can hurt people anymore and are quite insulting about his antiquity, age thirty-eight, and his girth, two hundred sixty-seven flabby pounds. Though less stylish than earlier, George resumes battering foes and, while losing weight, ignores those who cry the competition isn’t much. Bull-feathers, you say: a knockout’s a knockout. And what’s insignificant about stopping former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi in seven?

Like you, many fans start getting that old excitement while George poleaxes his first eighteen comeback opponents. Now he’s back on page one and national TV and the advertisers want to ride the fists of a man who’s replaced his scowl and hard words with a smile and charming stories. Hard-hooking but long-inactive Gerry Cooney is bombed out in the second round, and his respected trainer Gil Clancy, interviewed afterward in the ring, says damn right George Foreman can win the heavyweight title, he throws bombs and they land. Delightful destruction continues with five more wins in ‘90, and in April the following year George boasts twenty-four straight victories, all but one by knockout, when he battles champion Evander Holyfield. To see this one you’ve got to unload big pay-per-view bucks, and you eagerly do so and see young, quick Holyfield give ponderous George a frightful thrashing while winning a unanimous decision to defend his title.

Two years later, in ‘93, Tommy Morrison outboxes immobile George Foreman, age forty-four, and you wish you could talk to the former champ and tell him to give it up. He’s proved his thesis. Vigorous life continues in the forties. Quit now and don’t end up permanently injured like Ali. George may have been ready to do so but almost a year later divine assistance arrives: without fighting again the aged slugger is awarded a shot at the heavyweight title of undefeated Michael Moorer. You’re again happy to pay to watch but often wince as Moorer lashes Foreman much like Holyfield had three years earlier. It’s sad seeing a special champion get whipped. And the predictability becomes boring. You resolve not to watch George fight any more, after tonight. You even consider turning off the damn TV. Are you reaching for the button when George lands a strong right cross and two seconds later follows with another pile-driving right that knocks Moorer onto the canvas and out? You wouldn’t have touched the dial. You’re jumping and rejoicing. A man of forty-five has just become heavyweight champion of the world.

George is hot now and engulfed by fans, talk show hosts, journalists, and advertisers. A shrewd group has developed a grill that supposedly drains much of the fat from meat while cooking it and signs the new champ to promote what becomes the George Foreman Grill. The big happy raconteur convinces folks this is for their health. For his, George fights only four times the next three years. He never stops anyone after Michael Moorer. It doesn’t matter. You and a hundred million others buy his grill and are delighted when the corporation pays him about two hundred millions dollars in commissions and buyout fees. That’s George Foreman’s greatest knockout. 

George Thomas Clark’s next book, Paint it Black, will be published in 2015. He is also the author of Death in the Ring, a collection of boxing stories, and The Bold Investor, a short story collection. See the author’s website at

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

George Foreman vs Ionas Chepulis (1968 Gold medal boxing match)

George Foreman vs George Chuvalo (04.08.1970)

George Foreman destroys KNOCKS OUT Joe Frazier KO brutalizes

George Foreman vs Ken Norton - March 26, 1974

George Foreman vs Ron Lyle (Full 1976 fight broadcast)

George Foreman vs. Gerry Cooney

George Foreman vs Michael Moorer

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  1. George Thomas Clark 11:43am, 12/07/2014

    The last line of the previous post is supposed to read:

    Ali, of course, would be devastated a number of times, before and after the Rumble in the Jungle, in victory and in defeat.

  2. George Thomas Clark 11:41am, 12/07/2014

    Regarding the Ali-Foreman rumble, people should ask themselves who they really believed would win, before the fight.  Ali’s brilliant performance has made many change their pre-fight predictions.  I almost didn’t go to the close circuit telecast because I didn’t want to see Ali brutalized by big George.  Ali, of course, would be devastated a number of times, Before the Rumble in the Jungle, in victory and in defeat.

  3. Eric 07:54am, 12/07/2014

    Ali really took some heavy punishment to the ribs and hips in that fight. Those were some thudding body shots from Big George. The Foreman camp probably didn’t figure an aging Ali would be in that kind of shape to absorb those kind of shots more than a few rounds. Perhaps the last time that Ali was ever in great shape for a fight. Foreman couldn’t manhandle Ali the way he had done other fighters. Ali had underrated strength and wasn’t outmuscled in the clinches by George. Without a doubt, the Foreman fight was Ali’s greatest victory ever. The Foreman fight more than any other cements Ali’s claim as the GOAT.

  4. Jethro's Flute 04:31am, 12/07/2014

    ” Even back then as a young 17 year old, I thought his management team was not bright to go there”.

    They also gave him rubbish advice in having him try to kill Ali with every punch he threw.

    There’s no way anyone would beat Ali doing that and they should have known that.

  5. nicolas 12:31pm, 12/06/2014

    Pete: Just as Foreman was about to make his comeback, he was interviewed I think it was Time magazine, and said it was getting into the bible that really changed his life. He was I don’t think that much a reader but by reading it he became a more literate person than he had been before. I found it quite odd that in the articles of what boxers read, he regards War And Peace is favorite book. Someone I knew a white back who had done business with Foreman when younger said back then privately at least, he was a very surly type person. He was amazed when he saw the new Foreman back in the late 80’s and early 90s. As far as the Rumble in the Jungle, I did not see it on closed circuit back then, but had this felling that Foreman would lose, and my feeling were because he was going to Zaire, a country I had never heard of, to defend his title against what I thought would be a very hostile crowd. Even back then as a young 17 year old, I thought his management team was not bright to go there. Also during the time before that fight on a radio commentary, some one also echoed those feelings.

  6. Pete The Sneak 10:15am, 12/06/2014

    The thing that amazes me more about Foreman is, really, who would have thunk that this boorish, angry, attitude laden thug of a man (that being Foreman Part 1) would have turned out to be the most successful post boxing career fighter of all time. The man is a millionaire several times over (good thing to with all those kids). His transformation from the ‘I’ll kill you in the ring’ type persona to America’s favorite Teddy bear, loveable pitchman, whether by accident or by design, was a stroke of genius. The man still looks good, speaks well and continues to rake it in…Again, who would have thought back in the days when he was fighting 5 boxers in one night to try and get over the Ali loss that the George you see today would have materialized…Props to Big George…Peace.

  7. Eric 10:04am, 12/06/2014

    Irish…That would be a toughie. I would be rooting for George in that one, but hard to sell a prime Sonny cheap. One thing for certain, Liston never met someone with George’s power, not even Cleveland Williams. George shook off the bombs of Cooney, Morrison, Frazier, and Lyle, so Foreman’s chin is rock solid. I read an interesting story on Liston & Foreman training together. One of their training exercises was to push a loaded wheelbarrow up a steep hill. The much younger Foreman managed one lap, but Liston repeated the exercise for two more laps. Definitely one of those all-time dream matchups like Dempsey-Marciano, Louis-Johnson, etc. Foreman-Jeffries would also be interesting.

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:48am, 12/06/2014

    Eric-Liston could have glowered all he wanted but it wouldn’t have helped because Foreman would have dribbled him like a basketball the same way he did Frazier.

  9. Eric 08:03am, 12/06/2014

    I’ve seen more and more all-time lists placing Foreman in the top 5. The amazing thing is had it not been for his comeback, Foreman would be languishing near the 10 slot or even lower on many lists. I can’t think of a single heavyweight champ past or present who could have pulled off what Foreman accomplished. Gotta be in the top 5 IMO.

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