Boxing superstar George Foreman was once a staple on television. In fact, he even regularly popped up on our screens to promote his ever-popular line of grills. But the 69-year-old has taken a bit of a step back from the small screen in recent years. And you’ll never guess the reason why.
Before the lovable sports star started on his road to fame, though, he was born in 1949 in Marshall, Texas. Growing up in poverty, Foreman wasn’t always on the best track, getting into trouble and struggling to wake up in time for school. All that was to change when he discovered sports, however. Yet it was football that captured his interest at first.
Foreman didn’t actually consider boxing until he entered the Job Corps. And even then he only stepped into the ring “to show [his] friends that [he] wasn’t afraid.” But of course, the teen had plenty of talent and a formidable punch, and his early amateur record was impressive. Yet the best was still to come.
In 1968, you see, Foreman made it to the Olympics in Mexico while he was still in his teens. He went on to reach the heavyweight final, in which he beat Jonas ?epulis of the U.S.S.R. to earn a gold medal. His victory made people sit up and take notice, as did the way Foreman walked around the ring with a U.S. flag in his hands afterwards.
A couple of years later, Foreman had turned professional and was rocketing up the WBA and WBC rankings. And by 1971 he had become the highest-ranked challenger for the heavyweight title. He soon had some huge fights under his belt too, including taking the world heavyweight title from Joe Frazier in 1973.
But it’s the “Rumble in the Jungle” that many people remember most. That fight involved Foreman taking on boxing superstar Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974. Called the greatest sporting event of the century by some, the legendary bout saw Ali triumph towards the end of the eighth round.
And there was another fork in the road in 1977 when Foreman lost a fight to Jimmy Young. Foreman later claimed to have had a religious experience as he’d sat in the changing room after being defeated. The experience, he said, changed his life. And it set him on a path to something completely different to what had gone before.
Talking about his locker room moment in an interview with BeliefNet, Foreman said, “All I can tell you is that I would never want to go back there. It was just complete emptiness and darkness.”
“If you multiply every sad thought you’ve ever had in your life, you wouldn’t come close to this dump yard,” Foreman continued. “That’s where I was: just dead. And nothingness where I was, just nothing.”
When he came through the experience, though, Foreman asked a friend to fetch him a Bible, and his interest in religion was born. He subsequently gave up boxing, and the following year Foreman became a minister. Soon afterwards, he started spreading the word of God in Houston, Texas, where he lived.
With his life path having altered, Foreman also went on to establish a community center, which he later described on his website as “a place where everyone got to be a giant in his own world.” In 1980 – three years after his spiritual awakening – Foreman founded The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. His boxing career seemed to be firmly behind him too – until money problems beset the community center.
Eventually, in 1987 Foreman decided that he had to return to the ring. “And then the thought struck me: I know how to get money: I’m going to be heavyweight champ of the world. Again,” he explained on his website.
And in 1994 Foreman did indeed become world heavyweight champion again. That year proved to be a big one in the boxer’s life too, as it was also then that the George Foreman grill was launched. A man named Michael Boehm invented the machine, which cooked food on both sides at the same time and drained fat away from the meat. It was then brought to the attention of Foreman, who was fast becoming a successful brand ambassador, and after some deliberation he hopped onboard.
Foreman and the grill proved to be a match made in heaven, and the device subsequently became popular all over the world. So far, for instance, in excess of 100 million George Foreman grills have been bought around the globe.
Such was the pull of his name that Foreman was also able to pocket plenty from commercials, and the star promoted big brands such as Nike Air, Doritos and KFC. Other business ventures, meanwhile, included food products and a shoe range.
So, what is Foreman up to now? Well, although he’s approaching 70, the former boxer shows no sign of slowing down. Still in his native Texas, the father of 12 seemingly remains focused on making money. And he’s been having some fun spending it too.
“Don’t ever stop earning,” he told Fortune in 2015. “It’s a curse to think you have enough. There is never enough. George Foreman, Bill Gates – anyone. Money has to be spent. It is not made to be saved.”
One of his biggest luxuries? Cars. The pensioner currently has more than 50 rides on his vast property in Houston. These range from a 1977 Beetle, which he purchased as soon as he was making money, to a Ferrari, a Rolls Royce and several Chevrolet models. He also owns a tranquil ranch full of horses and still keeps his eye out for other business opportunities.
Foreman also continues to stop by his community center to take care of what needs to be done and preaches the word of the Lord at the weekends. In any spare time, he gives speeches. And despite wrapping up his sports career long ago, he stays healthy by exercising every day.
One thing is clear, though: whatever Foreman gets up to, he works hard at it. “The best thing that can ever happen to a human being is a job,” he told Fortune. “You don’t have a job, you’re going to die!”