Inside the ring and out, George Foreman was once a man driven by anger and resentment — raging emotion that drove him to become the world heavyweight champion in 1973. More than a decade later, he did it again, but the driving force behind that record-breaking comeback was profoundly different.
Foreman abruptly walked away from his boxing career for the first time in 1977, after a significant spiritual awakening. Growing up, his mother — a single parent raising six children in the Fifth Ward community of Houston — spoke of God often, a habit of which Foreman was not fond. But those words, seeds planted over time, sprung to life for the boxing champion as he recuperated in his locker room after a fight.
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“My first time around, I was just ambitious: I wanted to be top heavyweight champion of the world … rich and famous and that whole thing,” Foreman recently told CBN’s Faithwire. “Then, all of the sudden, I hit that rock. I found out there was more to life. I found God on the dressing room table, screaming, ‘Jesus Christ is coming alive in me!'”
After that life-changing conversion, Foreman’s focus was singular: He wanted to preach the Gospel.
All of his story — from growing up in poverty to becoming the two-time heavyweight boxing champion to reinventing himself as an entrepreneur to stepping into full-time ministry — is chronicled in the new movie, “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World,” in theaters Friday.
Many of the lessons he learned in boxing, the now-74-year-old athlete recalled, he channeled into his newfound passion for the Lord. As a scrappy fighter, Foreman had to learn to translate his raw emotion into fine-tuned athleticism. He fought just as hard for his then-burgeoning faith.
“I found religion and I realized I was gonna have to fight to be in church on time,” he joked. “And sometimes, I was just gonna be the best mopper around and the sweeper of the floors. It was a fight to keep this thing going, that I would tell the story for as long as I live and not let it get away from me.”
Foreman fought his way to the top of the boxing world, and he battled against faith — until he didn’t.
Once he encountered God, Foreman said, “I was gonna fight … to make certain everybody I met knew about it and I didn’t find anything else worthy of my time, other than doing the work of evangelism.”
The legendary boxer’s faith is the byproduct of his mother’s own devoted relationship with God.
Early in his career, he was certain that, so long as he found fame and fortune, she wouldn’t need God, and neither would he. In fact, he thought success would “stop all that praying” his mother did.
“But she never stopped praying,” Foreman recalled. “Then I became a minister … and she told me once, ‘At first, I didn’t believe in it. But now, you’re my pastor. I believe in you.’ … She said, ‘You’re my preacher.’ That is the most touching thing that ever happened to me. She believed in me and she believed in what I was doing.”
After years of ministry, Foreman — a one-time boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist — stepped back into the ring with a profoundly different perspective. Bolstered not by anger and resentment but by faith in God, Foreman went on to become the world heavyweight champion a second time in 1994, after defeating 26-year-old Michael Moorer.
He still holds the record for the oldest athlete to ever achieve such a feat.
Since his salvation, Foreman told CBN’s Faithwire, his “whole life has been dedicated to [evangelism].” In fact, that’s why he returned to boxing, in hopes that regaining such a platform would give him the opportunity to share the Gospel with a greater number of people.
“All I want people to understand is … I found God, I found out about Jesus Christ,” he said. “I don’t want that lost. And I think if they go to the movie, they’ll find out there’s more to me than what meets the eye. God is in there.”
You can watch our full conversation with Foreman in the video above.
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