GTR Archives 2000-2020

 

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May 1, 2020 (JST)

Interview with George Foreman

George Foreman talks about Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, the Gracie Family, MMA, Brazilian boxers, barbeque, and more.......

Gracie Magazine # 83, Dezembro 2003, Ano VIII, pp. 14-16

By Raphael Noguiera

Translated by Roberto Pedreira

Vovô Chapa-Quente

"I'm going to quit soon," says Mister Foreman, about his retirement as a fighter of boxing.1 His declaration smells like marketing. Now 54 years old, the 125 kg former heavyweight champion has just signed a large (400 milhðes de dolares) contract with a company who makes barbeque grills (churrasqueiras). In other words, why would an out-of-shape rich man return to the ring? Mister Foreman answers, "In order to show people over the age of 50 that they can still live their dreams. My return to boxing will serve as an example to people who have lost their motivation for living (motivação ao longo da vida). So said the 1.90 m Big Man (grandalhão) on his final day last month in São Paulo where he was introducing his line of grills (grelhas).

As today, no one believed in 1987, 10 years after he hung up his gloves the first time, that he would "come back." At that time, he was 38 years old, and  weighed 143 kg. But the improbable happed and he recovered the heavyweight belt at 45 years old, the boldest champion in history. Among his 80 fights (75 victories, and five defeats, Foreman still remembers his Gold medal in Mexico in 1968, his first belt when he defeated Joe Frazier in 1973, and his fight with Muhammad Ali in Kinshasha, Zaire, in 1974, considered by many to be the best fight of all time..

Q1. In 2004, 30 years will have passed since you lost in the greatest fight of the 20th century, against Muhammad Ali. Can you still hear the sounds of the African fans chanting "Ali, Bomba-ye" [Ali, mata ele].

George: There is this impression that the Africans hated me, but it isn't true. They liked me too. It was difficult for me to get over that defeat. It was the only knock-out of my career, something new for me that I didn't know how to adapt to. It was my fault for under-estimating Ali. For the first time I wasn't afraid of my opponent and for the first time I lost. When I lost to Ali, I hated him. As time passed, I loved him. He is a magnificent person. 

Q2. How is your relationship with Muhammad Ali today?

George: We talk frequently. I challenge him to a rematch but he doesn't answer (laughs). [Since the 1980's Ali has suffered from Parkinson's, with rigidity of muscles and slowness of speech and movements].

Q3. Norman Mailer (the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes) book the Fight (A Luta), is the most prestigious account of the fight. Was it faithful to the facts?

George: Not at all. Norman wrote about what he saw. It's only his version. The impression that I was the "Bad Guy" [o bandido] and Ali was the Good Guy" [o mocinho] stems a lot from what Norman wrote. But it was far from the reality. I repeat, the Africans loved me. 

Q4. A lot of things have changed since then?

George: Boxing goes on as before. There are new Alis and Foremans, but they haven't had a chance to emerge. The sport needs a new star who should come out in two years maximum. As for me, I have became much more famous than before which has let me acquire things and live a more peaceful life. 

Q5. Is it true that you are still going to be fighting?

George: Yes, it's true. I want to show that a person over 50 can still achieve their dreams. My return to boxing is to serve as an example to many people who have lost their motivation for living. My objective is only to fight, not to fight for the title again.

Q6. What do you think about the story that Mike Tyson will be fighting vale-tudo?

George: I think Tyson would be good on stand-up, but he wouldn't have the slightest chance of defending himself on the ground.

Q7. Do you like vale-tudo, or know about the Gracie Family, or any MMA academy in Brazil?

George: I follow it [MMA] a little. I have heard of the Gracies, but I don't know any of their names.

Q8. How about Brazilian boxers?

George: I fought Maguila.2 He had heavy hands. Now you have Popó.3 he is a hero, a star. He should fight more in the USA.

Q9. What brought you to Brazil?

George: I came to launch a line of fat reducing grills, called the George Foreman Grill. We invested in the Brazilian marketing and I'm helping with the promotion.

Q10. What do you think about Brazil?

George: I love Brasil. Your country is one of the best kept secrets in the world. In the USA people talk a lot about Ipanema but I have seen many other fantastic places here. It's my first visit to Brazil, but I plan to come back with my family in the near future. 

Q11. Do you have any disappointment (regrets) about boxing?

George: I don't have any disappointment. It was through fighting that I was able to meet some incredible people,  make money and produce  a large family. I love boxing. I'm not disappointed. It makes me happy to see young people getting involved in boxing. It is a great career., 

Q12. How is your life-style?

George: I live in a house in Texas with my family. I have nine kids, four girls and five boys.  Each one has my name. George I, II, II, IV, V. A boxer can never be confident about his memory [laughs]. My hobby is barbequing. I'm connected to a church. I'm a pastor and I plan to build a center for the recuperation of children here in Brasil. [In 1977 gave up boxing for the first time after having a religious vision. He became a pastor in the Church of Senhor Jesus. His reason for returning to the ring after ten years was to earn money to support his work in the church. The fighter spent all of his money on "religious investments."]

Q13. What advice would you give to Brazilian fighters who are starting out?

George: Well, there is plenty of food here so there isn't a problem with nutrition [laughs].  I think the difference these days is the concentration and determination of the athletes. My motto is "Continue Dreaming" [continue sonhando]. If you are involved in drugs, stop and continue dreaming. If you are incarcerated, wait until you are free and then continue dreaming. That is the best advice I can offer.

Q14. If you are going to return to fighting you will have to lose weight. That will be difficult for someone who is promoting a brand of barbeque grills.

George: That's true. I weigh about 125 kg, but I want to get down to 105 kg, that is, lose 20 quilos. At this point I'm going to close my mouth. Light steaks on my grill and nothing else [laughs].

End of Interview

 

George appeared on the Ana Maria Braga show to introduce his grills. Everyone was impressed with his appetite. 

 

 Notes

1. George didn't come back after all. His last fight was a loss (a robbery, actually, some observers felt), against Shannon Briggs on November 22, 1997. Judge for yourself. Here's the fight. George vs. Shannon Briggs

2. Maguila was Adilson Rodrigues who George defeated June 16, 1990. Here is the fight: George versus Magula 

3. Popó was Acelino Freitas. Helio Gracie agreed with George that Popò was a hero, a star.  

 

More boxing articles and interviews on GTR:

Who was The Greatest Heavyweight Boxer of All Time? GOAT

Sugar Ray Leonard interview with Antonio Inoki

Theory and Practice of the Jab

Kenny Weldon rev.

Sean O'Grady rev.

Ned Beaumont Street Boxing rev.

Piston Horiguchi Boxing Gym, Chigasaki, Japan

Punch Closed Fist Injuries

 

 

 

(c) 2020, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved (translation and commentary).

 

 

GTR Archives 2000-2020