The Secret of Difficulties
The Secret of Difficulties
TRUE CHAMPIONS GET UP AGAIN
"Never again...would I imagine that I had a firm grip on life; never would I forget life's fragility. Death could happen at any minute. I didn't want to forget missed opportunities."
- George Foreman
Mohammed Ali famously said, "I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." As many people know, Parkinson's disease has ravaged Mohammed Ali's Olympic gold-medal and heavyweight world championship winning body. But in October 1974, Mohammed Ali's poor health was far in the future, and his skill as a boxer and entertainer had created a difficulty for someone else. Against near impossible odds, the thirty-three-year-old Ali stood triumphantly in a boxing ring over the heavily favored heavyweight champion of the world, twenty-five-year-old George Foreman. A brash, angry, brutal fighter, Foreman needed to put himself into a frenzy before entering the boxing ring. When this fight was over Foreman lay on the canvas knocked out by Ali. After a few attempts to regain the title, Foreman suffered a second loss to Jimmy Young which seemed to end Foreman's career. After these losses, Foreman's self-esteem had been severely damaged. He had identified his manhood with his heavyweight championship title and his success as a boxer. Once the title was lost, Foreman wandered in a wilderness of self-doubt.
Many of us now remember and love the American icon George Foreman for his amiable, warm, friendly, and authentic personality. In the 1990s, he endeared himself to many Americans as spokesman for Meineke Muffler and the Foreman Grill, and as the unlikely boxing heavyweight champion of the world at age forty-five. As odd as it seems, that unexpected knockout Foreman received at the hands of Mohammed Ali in 1974 may have been the best thing that could have happened to him.
George Foreman was born on January 10, 1949, and raised in a poverty-stricken area in Houston, Texas. Foreman was big, and at an early age, he used his size to bully, intimidate, and beat his peers. In his teens, Foreman prided himself on being the toughest, cruelest bully in his neighborhood. He wore his anger as a badge, and when he began a life of crime at an early age, it didn't look like Foreman could avoid becoming a inner-city statistic, either by going to prison or by being killed.
Foreman knew that his future was threatened if he continued with the same behavior and remained in Houston. He enrolled in a youth job corps program created by President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative. Life was challenging in the program. The work ethic and discipline was intense and the program was located in a faraway, unfamiliar area in Washington State. He was almost expelled more than once, but the program changed the course of his life. He met people who helped him feel good about himself and his confidence started to grow. When some of his peers told him he should become a boxer since he enjoyed fighting so much, he rose to the challenge.
Foreman received his early boxing training within the youth camp, and when his obvious skills and talent were recognized, he was encouraged to try out for the US Olympic boxing team in 1968. A relatively inexperienced boxer, his natural talent and a successful challenging of his underlying anger enabled him to secure an Olympic gold medal. Soon after his Olympic victory, he began his professional career. The road to challenging Mohammed Ali was long and difficult. Foreman fought and won thirteen fights in 1969, twelve fights in 1970, seven in 1971, and five in 1972 before he got a shot at the heavyweight title in 1973 against Joe Frazier. Foreman was not expected to win the fight; Smokin' Joe Frazier had a reputation as a ferocious hitter. But after claiming the title from Frazier, Foreman became famous an