There was a time in the United States when most people could name the current heavyweight boxing champion. My paternal grandfather McKinley Green probably could have named them all, from John L. Sullivan through Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, the undefeated Rocky Marciano to Floyd Patterson.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title that he’d won in 1964 (as Cassius Clay) by beating Sonny Liston. This was due to his refusal to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War. “Smokin'” Joe Frazier eventually won the confusing alphabet soup of titles when he defeated Jimmy Ellis in 1970. Frazier then beat Ali, who was by then allowed to make his comeback, in the “Fight of the Century” in 1971.
On January 22, 1973, Frazier lost his title when he was defeated for the first time professionally by George Foreman. Foreman had won a gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He turned professional in 1969. After he beat Frazier, he had two successful title defenses.
Foreman’s lost the title in his first professional defeat, to Muhammad Ali, in “The Rumble in the Jungle” in October 1974 in Zaire. George retired from boxing after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 and had a religious conversion. He became an ordained minister and opened a youth center in Houston, TX.
In 1987, at the age of 38, George announced he was returning to boxing to raise money for his youth center. From the Wikipedia: “By 1989, Foreman had sold his name and face for the advertising of various products, selling everything from grills to mufflers on TV….his public persona was reinvented, and the formerly aloof, ominous Foreman had been replaced by a smiling, friendly George.” In fact, it was the George Foreman Grill that made him far more money than he made in his boxing career.
Still, in 1994, he fought a guy named Michael Moorer. “With this historic victory, Foreman broke three records: he became, at age 45, the oldest fighter ever to win the World Heavyweight Championship; 20 years after losing his title for the first time, he broke the record for the fighter with the longest interval between his first and second world championships; and the age spread of 19 years between the champion and challenger was the largest of any heavyweight boxing championship fight.” He eventually ceded the title.
He has a dozen kids. “On his website, Foreman explains, ‘I named all [five of] my sons George Edward Foreman so they would always have something in common. I say to them, ‘If one of us goes up, then we all go up together, and if one goes down, we all go down together!'”