George Foreman Movie, Portrait of Boxer, Preacher, Entrepreneur, Role Model, in Theaters Friday
The George Foreman movie hits theaters on Friday, April 28. It is a bit surprising, maybe, that a Foreman bio-pic hadn’t been done before now. After all, his in-ring exploits are legendary. And his outside-the-ring life is beyond fascinating as well. The man had a lion AND a tiger as pets.
The Texan, who turns 75 in January, came from quite humble circumstances. He found a reason for being in pugilism, and turned that into Olympic gold at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. In the heavyweight ranks, he excelled as a fearsome banger, and secured the title when he beat Joe Frazier in 1973. His battle against Muhammad Ali in 1974 is one for the ages.
Pundits feared Foreman would kill Ali. The crafty ring magician Rope a Doped Foreman, and dropped and stopped him in round 8 of the fight in Zaire aka The Rumble in the Jungle.
So, Foreman fought six more times, and then a new reason for being emerged. Following a UD12 loss to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico, Foreman saw a brighter light, and left boxing at age 28 to serve God.
Foreman spread the gospel of Christ but then the itch returned. It was probably mostly a pragmatic choice. His savings were running low, and costs to educate his kids would be increasing. He stepped into the ring again in 1987, whittling down his weight from 340 pounds.
Foreman met 24 mostly journeyman types, winning every tango, as he showed a new persona. He was the cheeseburger craving everyman, not svelte but still ebullient. Then, in 1991, he challenged Evander Holyfield, then 25-0, for the Real Deal’s IBF, WBA and WBC heavyweight straps.
He lost, and surely could have re-retired. But Foreman kept campaigning. Another step up fight took place, in 1993, versus Tommy Morrison, then 36-1. Foreman absorbed another loss…but soldiered on. In his next tussle, Foreman faced Michael Moorer, on Nov. 5, 1994.
Derided As A Joke, A Sideshow Con, George Foreman Silences Doubters
Moorer entered at 35-0, feeling confident. Too confident, maybe, as he got into a comfortable rhythm, whacking away at the 45 year old. Foreman, 3 to 1 underdog entering, saw an opening and seized it in round ten. A one-two in tight worked. So he did the same combo, but aiming more for the chin than nose, and bang. That one-two put the 26 year old Moorer on his back, unable to beat the Joe Cortez count.
Foreman went to a corner, faced the turnbuckle, and dropped to his knees. Not from fatigue, but in a show of deference to a higher power. His comeback paid off, he became the oldest man to win a heavyweight championship. His fanbase mushroomed, so many people liked that his fat jiggled and vibrated upon landing the telling volley.
After that, there were four more fights, and he left for good (presumably!) after losing to Shannon Briggs in 1997.
His profile didn’t dim, being that his namesake grill had a home in every third kitchen in America, and then worldwide. He did a stint analyzing fights for HBO, and kept on preaching.
Foreman Shied Away From Doing Bio-Pic, Then Solid Script Emerged
Foreman, father of 5 boys named George and seven girls, admitted he wasn’t keen to do a bio-pic. Because typically, celebs tend to try to hide elements of their upbringing. “I really didn’t want to do it,” he told Ak and Barak on The DAZN Boxing Show. “You show what you want and you hide the rest.”
But, he finally got presented a script he could live with, so he took the plunge. Check out the trailer for Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World below:
Khris Davis plays the Texas titan of heavyweight boxing, preaching and entrepreneurship. Did Big George have a say, or an OK, in casting choices? He had a voice, but didn’t really use it, said the Marshall, Texas resident.
“I just wanted a good actor to play me, so I tried to not have too many cooks in the kitchen. But Hollywood found a great actor in Khris Davis,” who he compared to Robert DeNiro playing Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull. “He’s George Foreman, I’m just a stand in.”
Side notes on Davis: He gained 50 pounds in 5 weeks to get bigger like second act George. That meant eating about 7,000 calories a day. Here is a lengthy interview with Davis discussing this gig.
For the record, Frank Baldwin and George Tillman Jr wrote the Sony Pictures release screenplay. Dan Gordon and Baldwin share credit on the story. Tillman Jr is the director. Foreman is an executive producer. Forest Whitaker is the most recognizable actor in the cast, he plays Doc Broadus, a supervisor in the Job corps when Foreman enlisted.
The International Boxing Hall of Famer touched on some of the harder parts of the film's fruition. It was painless showing the triumphs, but the stumbles not so much. “I had to live up to some of the defeats I’d suffered in life,” he said. “They revealed the whole adventure in the movie. I had to live through it and at the end of the day, it was a triumph. My whole life was a triumph anyway. I started from nothing!”
One Win Beats Out The Myriad Triumphs in His Life
His crazily improbable return to the ring was discussed with Ak and Barak. Foreman said he was wise to start his comeback from the bottom, basically acknowledging that he wasn’t the same guy who had a certain skill set in 1977. Re-gaining the heavyweight championship at age 45, taking the strap from 32 year old Michael Moorer in 1995 was great. But, he said, winning that Olympic gold stands atop his wins. “That was the most spectacular moment in my life,” he said. “I didn’t know dreams come true.”
Here’s how Sports Illustrated described the gold medal victory:
“George Foreman, the lyrical 19-year-old 218-pounder from Houston, ruined Russia's balding 29-year-old Iones Chepulis with approximately 200 left jabs that caused Chepulis' nose to bleed quite a lot and eventually led to a halt in the second round. After the fight Foreman received a cluster of roses from someone at ringside and promptly presented the bouquet to the Russian—they matched his nose nicely—and then grabbed up a little U.S. flag from Pappy Gault and kissed it for the crowd.”
This movie, however, won’t be able to cram in all the details that could make the grade. Like, you won’t see how Foreman walked the Ali path, with his rhyming. He shared this one in Mexico City, to reporters:
“George is nimble and George is quick.
Watch me, folks, 'cause I can really stick.
Ali introduced speed and now speed is death.
I can move to your right, Stick all night.
Move to your left, Cause your death.
I am approximately 19 years old. I am a young adult. Am I still growing? Chances are. Do I have respect for my elders? Respect is a form of fear, and I can't give you that. I'm a lover, a gamer, a woman tamer.
Fight a little, talk a lot.
You people may say I talk a lot. I'm so great, I don't dare shadow box. It's because of my left. I'm afraid to hit myself.
Let's talk about a fighter of yesterday. Now everybody remembers old Cassius Clay. You may say Ali is good
If you feel you should
But if he got me in the ring and asked my name, Why, that poor boy would die of shame.”
Plenty of folks know George Foreman not for anything boxing related, but for his signature grill. The grillmaster said he didn’t expect that the endeavor would be fruitful. “I didn’t think I’d sell any more than 16 of them,” he said. Nope, 120 million were sold world-wide. “I became good at selling things,” he explained, because he preached on street corners. He advertised the wonders of God and Jesus, and that helped in pitching grills.
George Foreman, Heat Exhaustion or Born Again?
Not as many know about his out of body experience in Puerto Rico, after losing to Jimmy Young.
“I was in the dressing room walking back and forward and saying, ‘I don’t care about this boxing match I lost. I’m still George Foreman,” Foreman has said, “You know, I can win this [next match].. I got my money in the bank. And I could go home and retire now and die. That sneaked into my conversation – ‘die.’ And I couldn’t get it out. All of a sudden, I faced death, and I knew I was about to die. So, with that in mind, I heard a voice within me say, ‘You believe in God, why are you scared to die?’”
His trainer Gil Clancy said the collapse was heat exhaustion, from searing TV lights. Foreman felt otherwise.
“Y’all, I’m fixing’ to die,” is what Foreman remembers saying after the Young fight, in his dressing room. He didn’t say anything about hearing a voice speaking in his head. “Because nobody would have believed me,” he told the LA Times in 1990. “I said to myself, ‘I’ll make a deal with this voice.’ I said, ‘I’ll keep boxing and give money to charity, for cancer.’ And I heard this voice say”–and this he said from deep within his cavernous body–” ’I don’t want your money. I want you!’ ”
His team were concerned when they attended to him. “I’m dying for God,” he declared. You will be back, he as told.
He then ran into the shower and screamed, “Hallelujah!”
Foreman, who holds a 76-5 (68 KOs) record, told the Washington Post in 1989 about his work-life after the Young event. “I left knowing I had to quit and become a minister,” he said. “And I did for 10 years. That's when I discovered that prancing around a ring with short pants on, that's easy. Telling some old woman who has just lost her husband of 40 years that her life is still worth living, dealing with a little boy who is looking into the coffin at his dead daddy, those are the things that are hard. Boxing is easy.”
Foreman became an ordained minister and started preaching heavily in 1980. He summarized his take on what this movie is about, bottom line. “The most important thing I’d like for the people who go to the movie to take out is that there is hope. … There’s a living God. And I’m proof of it. That’s all – forget about the boxing and the winning and the losing and all of that. Faith in God is what that movie is about.”
My Take: I’d noticed over the years that Foreman didn’t latch onto political stances. He kindly joined me often on my Everlast Talkbox podcast, and he never took that easy shot against Donald Trump during a chaotic White House stint. He didn't embrace the Black Lives Matter protests, either.
It took me a bit, but I figured it out.
George Foreman seeks to spread his testimony and gospel far and wide. Insulting, even by association, people who root hard for one political party, defeats that goal.
Bible pushers and prosperity preachers can make one cynical about those proclaiming the depths of their faith. Foreman’s method of sharing his faith removed a good deal of my cynicism. Foreman, though, hasn’t sought to enlargen his ministry to a mega mass market, nor used his preaching to enrich himself from parishioners’ donations. Such a creature would be entitled to a certain level of hubris. George Foreman conducts himself with thorough decency, and humility. The filmic telling of his life story is a most worthy subject, because he truly he is a righteous role model.