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Opinions of Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Columnist: Kordson Kwasi Ayrakwa

George Foreman: The champion and the legend

File photo: George Foreman File photo: George Foreman

"To believe in yourself and having the confidence to live out your dreams is the hallmark of the brave, the dreamer and the conqueror".

This exactly describes the life and experiences of George Foreman, the former heavy weight champion of the world popularly known as "Big George".

Big George was born on January 10, 1949 in Marshall, Texas. His early growing years was tumultuous in a family with 6 siblings. He was not particularly interested in school and believed boxing was he way out of the chaos to economic freedom and independence.

Big George's prowess was shown when he won the Olympic gold medal at the heavy weight division in the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. His skills and tenacity paid off when he defeated Joe Frazier "smoking Joe" in Kingston Jamaica in 1973 to win the World Heavy Weight Boxing title.

With his new found fame, he enjoyed the pleasures of life to the maximum, but was reluctant to talk to the press. He was described as being alof. He defended his title successfully twice beating Jose Roman and Ken Norton; until he faced Mohammed Ali "the greatest" in the "Rumble of the Jungle" in Kinshasa Zaire in 1974. Ali was the darling boy of the people of Zaire,who cheered him on with the phrase "Ali Bum-aye", Ali Bum-aye" - meaning Ali defeat him. And like we always say, when the African gods and the locals are with you nothing can go wrong.

Ali displayed skill and tactics lining on the ropes, using his "rope-a-dope tactics", to ware out Foreman who became very tired in the later part of the fight, giving Ali the opportunity to show his stamina, strength, agility and speed to knock him out in the 8th round. Ali was the first person to knock Foreman out in his professional career.

Foreman's loss to Mohammed Ali, and unable to secure a rematch and other unprofessional decisions by him, put him far away from any chance at the time to fight for the world title. His situation was further exacerbated by losing to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico in 1977. After the fight, Foreman became ill and had a near death experience and a spiritual rebirth "a religious epiphany" turning around his life to Christ and subsequently becoming an ordained minister of the "Church of the Lord Jesus Christ". For 10 years he retired from Boxing and went on preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in streets and to anyone he came across.

He dedicated his life to ministry work. He built the George Foreman Youth Center aimed at reforming delinquent youth and challenging them to a better life, in an effort to prevent the young people from experiencing some of the difficult situations he faced as young person. He also devoted his time to his family and preaching on a number Christian broadcasting networks like "the 700 Club and Trinity Broadcasting Network".

After a ten year absence from boxing and at age 38, Foreman announced his return to boxing in 1987 with the view to raise money to support his youth center. He was mocked for coming back to boxing at that age. But George was ready to prove that age did not matter in one achieving their goals. During the process of building back his boxing career Big George lend his name to a number commercial advertising ventures on TV "selling everything from grills to mufflers". This made him a more friendly George than the aloof George that was portrayed of him in the early part of his career. He even became a friend of Mohammed Ali and became a "celebrity beyond the boundaries of boxing".

Foreman continued his pursuit for glory by fighting big named fighters like Gerry Cooney, Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison. In 1994, at age 45, he had his chance to fight Micheal Moorer for the IBF and WBA titles. Foreman, took his opportunity to prepare for the fight harder than ever before. On the 5th of November 1994, in Las Vegas, George Foreman knock out Micheal Moorer in the 10th round to regain his Heavy Weight Crown he had lost to Mohammed Ali 20 years ago. Through his accomplishment be became the oldest boxer in history to win a world title - where the age spread between two boxers was 19 years.

Foreman's achievement shows that, there is no age limit to one's ambition. Just win, just fight for your dreams and never give up on what is always possible. To dare is to progress and the joy of the impossible. You are a legend and a Champion.