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Former Heavyweight Boxing Champ Foreman Contemplates Comeback - 2004-02-14


One of America's most popular sports personalities is former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, who has built a reputation and a small fortune by venturing into the world of business and entertainment. At the age of 55, he would be forgiven if he simply laid back on his ranch near his hometown of Marshall, Texas and enjoyed his wealth. But Mr. Foreman is now contemplating a return to the ring.

Many of his friends and fans were stunned this week when news reports indicated that George Foreman is considering a boxing comeback, at the age of 55. Then again, many who know him well say such a move is to be expected by this tall, muscular man, for whom the term larger than life could have been coined.

One Foreman friend who worries about his return to the ring is boxing reporter for the Houston Chronicle newspaper William Stickney.

"I am a little concerned about it. I wonder if at 55 he is not endangering his health and safety, but no one knows what George Foreman can do but George Foreman," he said.

Mr. Stickney says George Foreman would probably do well against any of the young men currently vying for the heavyweight title, but that he should not get carried away and do more than just one bout. This would be the second comeback for Mr. Foreman, who was heavyweight champion of the world in 1973-74 and then came back to win the title again in 1994 at the age of 45 - the oldest man ever to win a heavyweight crown.

Foreman has also been a winner outside the ring, making his mark as an author, a record producer and as a businessman, selling millions of home cooking devices under the brand name The George Foreman Grill. William Stickney says few athletes have been able to make such a smooth transition in their careers.

"I just think it is because of his personality and charisma," he said. "He is so well loved outside the ring by the American public and the world public. That has made for a rather easy transition into the entrepreneurial world."

In a recent VOA interview, Foreman spoke about his success and the ability to keep coming back.

"America is the home of one, two, even three chances to do whatever you want to do," he said. "I was heavyweight champion of the world at 45 [years of age.] This is when people stop dreaming and this is when my dream came true-at the age of 45, a senior. So, the idea is that you can dream and dream until you get tired of dreaming. You never have to stop. And going into the world of business, equally, with much strength and do not let anybody tell you that you cannot do it."

Mr. Foreman says his entry into the business world came about partly because of his own love of cooking and partly because he saw an opportunity to market a good product under his name.

"We worked hard and after a few years the George Foreman Grill became a household name," he explained. "To this day we have sold over 60 million of those things worldwide and it is still growing every day. It is the proof that it is never too late to start a new dream."

Mr. Foreman never misses an opportunity to talk about cooking and to sell perhaps one more grill.

"I am the best cook in my house with that grill," he said. "My wife is the best with baking, of course, but I like to grill. I have always loved grilling food. The George Foreman grill and selections have all kinds of ways. If you want to cook, we can get you started."

Although George Foreman keeps busy with his grill promotion, his ranch and his family, he is also very active in humanitarian projects, sponsoring youth clubs and events. He also keeps in touch with old friends from the sports world, including the man who defeated him for the heavyweight title in 1974, Mohammed Ali.

"We are great friends now. I called him a couple months ago at home. We talked for a pretty good while. He takes his time to speak now," he said. "I said, You know what, I think I could get you now. I said, I want a re-match -- I think I can get you now. He stopped for a long moment and then he said, You crazy! We have become great friends. He is the most lovable man in the world."

While it is not likely that Mr. Foreman will ever enter the ring again with Mohammed Ali, it does appear possible that he will fight again at some event in the near future. But whether he wins or loses in the match, George Foreman is likely to continue taking on challenges outside the ring where he continues to be a big winner.

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