Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1949, George Foreman is one of seven children in his family. He was interested in sports from an early age, and he played football and basketball as a youngster. Foreman dropped out of school in the 10th grade and spent his days drinking, shoplifting, and roaming the streets looking for trouble—which he often found. When he was 16, he joined the Job Corps and spent two years doing construction work and forestry in Oregon. During that time, he earned his high school equivalency diploma.
Foreman’s time in the Job Corps transformed his life. He met Nick Broadus, a boxing instructor who taught him how to box and who started him on a training program. Foreman fought his first amateur fight in 1967, winning with a knockout in the first round.
After graduating from the Job Corps, Foreman worked as a physical education instructor at Camp Parks in Alameda, California, and continued his boxing career. After winning the national amateur heavyweight championship in 1968, he earned a position on the U.S. boxing team for the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. At the games, he won the heavyweight Gold Medal. He turned professional a year later.
Foreman started his professional career with a knockout victory in 1969. Over the next three years, he defeated 36 consecutive opponents. In 1973, he defeated Joe Frazier for the heavyweight championship. Foreman successfully defended his title against Joe Roman in 1973 and against Ken Norton in 1974. On October 30, 1974, during the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match in Kinshasa, Zaire, he lost his title to Muhammad Ali.
Foreman retired from boxing in 1977 after losing a bout to Jimmy Young. While in the dressing room following the match, he underwent another transformation. Foreman says he encountered death and God in an apocalyptic experience, recalling that he felt dead one moment, then saved the next. Foreman quit boxing, sold two homes and his ranch, and returned to Houston to open his Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. With the help of his brother, he also bought and renovated a building for the George Foreman Youth and Community Center.
In 1991, Foreman told People magazine, “I left boxing for 10 years and went looking for myself. It was important to be me. When you die and you get a chance to live again, man, you want to live. And you don’t want to be nobody but you.” In 1987, he returned to boxing, and in 1990, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In 1994, he defeated heavyweight champion Michael Moorer, regaining the heavyweight title at the age of 45.
In 1995, Foreman began promoted the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine; four years later, he was crowned “King of the Grill” after selling more than 10 million grills. A father of 10 children, Foreman opened his center for youth to give children a safe place to socialize and play. His message to all youths is to stay in school and believe in themselves.