‘I was always afraid in the ring’

Former heavyweight world champion Foreman talks courage, fear, money and the man he could not beat.

Foreman won 76 of his 81 fights, including 68 KOs [Doha Goals Forum 2014]
Foreman won 76 of his 81 fights, including 68 KOs [Doha Goals Forum 2014]

George Foreman will be 66 in a few weeks.

His right jab still looks as mighty as it was when he was 25 in the defeat to Mohammad Ali. Or at 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer.

The ferocious look has given way to a permanent grin but with boxing gloves hanging off his left shoulder, the conviction and poise remained.

Foreman on Ali

“Mohammad Ali was really dedicated to standing on his feet. He really had a cause. When you have a cause, you just don’t knock out a cause.

“In the 10 years I as out of boxing, me and Ali became very good friends. He’s that brother I always wanted. You could take him anywhere. He was a real fun guy, probably the most fun guy I’ve ever met.

“He’s not doing terribly well right now but he loves life. It’s going to take more than Parkinson to take him out.”

“I won’t kill anyone with a punch,” he tells the interviewer at the Doha Goals Forum 2014 as he punches his left palm with his right fist, the impact amplified by the close presence of a microphone.

“I’ll only give you a light one, not a heavy one,” he adds, the punch this time sounding mightier and looking dangerous, even from a distance.

The interviewer pauses, gulps and ponders his next move.

Fear in the ring

Almost 20 years ago, Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion. Twenty years before that, he was knocked out by Ali despite wearing the favourite’s tag.

A total of 81 fights and 76 wins – 68 of them KOs – it’d be a safe bet to consider Foreman one of the bravest on the planet.

“I was always afraid in the ring,” Foreman confirms. “You corner me and that’s when I hit you. Like a cornered cat. I’d just hit you out of fright. As a boxer, you need fear. It’s the art of self-defence. Once you lose that, there’s no telling what can happen to you.

“The only time I wasn’t afraid was when i fought Ali and that’s when I should’ve been afraid. I wasn’t scared then. No butterflies at all. I thought this was going to be the easiest fight of my life.”


Growing up in Marshall, Texas, boxing was all Foreman knew. A poor family, not much food on the table and lack of opportunity paved way for a successful boxing career.

“Boxing was a way out. I talk about it because I’ve had a lot of success.”

Foreman held the gloves he had bought on stage with him and added: “These little things took me all over the world and gave me a chance to be successful”.

His success streak was halted at ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, the title fight against Ali.

Foreman was knocked out in the eighth round.

He was the undefeated world heavyweight champion. Ali was a former heavyweight champion but the challenger here.

“I was overconfident. I was told I was the favourite and I believed it. I figured I will knock him out in three rounds max. I threw everything I had in those three rounds. He even asked me in the sixth round: ‘Is that everything you got?’.

“I remember thinking, yes that’s about it.”

As a boxer, you need fear. It’s the art of self-defence. Once you lose that, there’s no telling what can happen to you

George Foreman

The final comeback

Foreman retired a few years later and worked as a minister at the church while also helping kids get off the streets. The hunger for another shot at the belt remained. He decided to return.

But more than the hunger and to take care of unfinished business, Foreman needed cash to survive.

“I was broke. Boxing was my only profession. I had to go back in the ring and when I did, I was this 45 year old in the ring with someone young enough to be my son.”

This time, in 1994, Foreman got a shot at the title but as an underdog. For nine rounds, he remained true to the tag before unleashing a series of punches, culminating in a short right hand that caught Moorer on the chin.

Foreman had knocked out his opponent and regained the belt he had lost to Ali almost 20 years ago. At 45, he became the oldest boxer to win the World heavyweight Championship.

Foreman was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame while the IBRO rates him as the eighth greatest heavyweight of all-time.

Source : Al Jazeera

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