THE STORY OF A BLESSED MAN: ‘BIG GEORGE’ FOREMAN
Yesterday in the news, I saw a very recent picture of former world heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist, George Foreman. He was looking really well and I thanked God once again for his life. I think he’s a good example of a man blessed by God.
Big George, as he is called, appears to be in excellent health at 69. In fact, in October last year, he challenged actor and film maker, Steven Seagal (who has a martial arts background), to a 10-round no-holds barred fight in Las Vegas. Haha! He has a very impressive boxing record, retiring in 1997 (after 76 wins, 66 of them knockouts, and 5 losses) and retains the record of having the oldest retirement age in the sport (48). However, most of his net worth of $300 million does not come from boxing.
Big George is an accomplished author although he dropped out of school in the ninth grade (at the age of 15). He has written five popular books on his life, healthy food recipes and motivation like George Foreman’s Guide to Life: How to Get Up Off the Canvas When Life Knocks You published in 2003 by Simon & Schuster. He certainly knows about that having fought and been defeated by such boxing greats as Muhammad Ali (Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974 and Evander Holyfield in 1991. He has also co-authored five books, including his 2007 God in My Corner: A Spiritual Memoir, written with Ken Abraham and published by Thomas Nelson.
Big George, who was dubbed hostile by the press during his boxing career, is now a TV personality. Ironically, he even starred as a retired actor in a comedy show named George on ABC that aired briefly between 1993 and 1994. He has so many credits from appearances and roles he has played in TV shows, his current gig being the reality TV show, Better Late than Never, on NBC. In it, he and four other celebrities tour some cities without the trappings of wealth in a manner reminiscent of the 2007 movie, Bucket List, which starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.
But the highlight of Big George’s story for me is his spiritual turnaround in 1977. He had just been beaten by Jimmy Young in a bout at Puerto Rico and became so ill after the fight from a combination of exhaustion and heatstroke that he nearly died. He believes he found himself in hell and God heeded his pleas and pulled him back. Thereafter, he became a born again Christian and started preaching on the streets. He was subsequently ordained a gospel minister and for a decade, he stayed away from boxing and focused on ministry. He has been pastoring a pentecostal church, Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in his hime town, Houston, since 1980. He also runs the George Foreman Youth and Community Center there.
Big George has gone down the road of most celebrities in his married life: he’s been married five times. But he hasn’t been impoverished by the payment of alimony and costly divorce settlements. Furthermore, he has not been sunk by other vices that plague many people living in the public glare like gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse and run-ins with the law.
Rather, his entrepreneurial spirit has had him making money from endorsements, notably the Salton Inc. grill named after him from which he is said to have earned nearly $200 million, both from his initial 45 percent of profit from sales after expenses, millions of dollars for TV appearances and a reported $137.5million payout to use his name forever. It has been dubbed one of the most lucrative deals in sporting history, perhaps second only to Michael Jordan’s Nike endorsement in 1984. Big George also earns a tidy bit from his many speaking engagements.
Another thing that has endeared Big George to me is his patriotic stance and open support for President Donald Trump when many celebrities and athletes are doing the opposite. I feel disgusted by the level of insults heaped on Trump by some US citizens and the leftist, mainstream media; the disrespect shown to the American flag, people in uniform and the paranoia over Trump’s desire to make America great again. #MAGA
In spite of his shortcomings and he does have many, Trump deserves better treatment by virtue of the office he occupies. Besides, he’s delivering on his campaign promises, reducing unemployment for all races and improving the US economy. But the media have whipped some segments of the American public into such a frenzy that they not only hate Trump, they go after anyone who voices support for him, as though everyone should be on the same side of the political spectrum. (Note that Big George is a Democrat.)
So, I am glad that Big George is courageous enough to open state his views in the prevailing circumstances. For instance, in August 2017, Big George condemned the NFL athletes kneeling when the US national anthem was played and commended Trump’s work as president. According to a Washington Times report, Big George said, “I love the United States.” Way to go, pastor! He also said of Trump: “He’s a good president. A lot of people don’t like him, but evidently more do.” In that report, Big George recalled with gratitude how Trump’s promotion of the 1991 fight between him and Holyfield pulled him out of bankruptcy.
And yesterday, he praised Trump’s posthumous pardon of boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, who was wrongly convicted by an all-white jury in 1913. (The charge was transporting a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes” contrary to the Mann Act. Wow!) This pardon had been campaigned for by different prominent people like Senator John McCain and actor-director, Sylvester Stallone, over a long period but previous presidents, including America’s first black president, Barack Obama, failed to grant it.
Big George stays away from the histrionics regarding race in America. As he once said, “I’m not a black man or a white man or anything else. All I’ve ever been was an American.” What an admirable thing to say! And in spite of his many marriages, he maintains a close relationship with his 12 children declaring that, “You may have an ex-wife or an ex-husband, but you can never have ex-children.”
God in the picture can really make a lot of difference in a person’s life as Big George testifies in his Christian broadcast appearances. It is not usually when we are riding the crest of success that we seek God but when we are in dire straits. This was Big George’s experience too and, to the glory of God, he has maintained his faith and service to God even with the success that has come his way.
To wrap up this post, here are some inspirational quotes from George Foreman’s extensive reservoir:
“Filling a need is not merely good business; it’s a basic attitude towards life. If you see a need, do whatever you can to meet that need.”
“I tell my kids … you’re not going to be the tallest, fastest, prettiest … but you can be the nicest human being that someone has ever met in their life. And I just want to leave that legacy that being nice is a treasure.”
“So many of us have … peolple we really care about, and the only time we show affection is when they are gone. I have preached at funerals and you see loved ones who didn’t even say hello to dear ones when they were alive. Give them hugs, kisses while they are alive and need it.”
“In boxing, I had a lot of fear. Fear was good. But for the first time, in the bout with Muhammad Ali, I didn’t have any fear. … No fear at all. No nervousness. And I lost.”
(Ali was the first boxer to defeat Foreman.)
“You have to keep your goal in mind and never lose sight of it. I envisioned myself winning the heavyweight title for ten years before I actually captured it.”
“I don’t even think about a retirement program because I’m working for the Lord, for the Almighty. And even though the Lord’s pay isn’t very high, his retirement program is, you might say, out of this world.”
Sources: Fox News, TV Guide, Washington Times, New York Times, CNBC, Wikipedia, AZ Quotes, Brainy Quote, The Famous People
Hope you enjoyed this post. What aspect of George Foreman’s story impressed you?
Which other retired athlete have you been inspired by following his or her life? Care to share what it is about them that has motivated you?
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