The last time I spoke to George Foreman, it was a hundred years ago. More, maybe.
Felt like it; we spoke in the days leading up to the Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder rematch, or, as it was called then, the Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury rematch.
On the night of Feb. 22, Fury’s world changed, and Wilder’s changed, arguably even more. After that, the same could be said of the masses in the United States, and and around the world.
You don’t live under a rock, you know what I’m talking about. Coronavirus was not at the forefront of the minds of most Americans. There had been around 2,500 deaths from COVID with approximately fewer than 20 deaths outside of mainland China. And for sure, it was on radar screens belonging to certain sorts of people. On Jan. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case U.S. case, a Washington man who’d visited family in Wuhan, China, came back, on Jan. 15, and went to a clinic on Jan. 19, with what was thought to be pneumonia.
Folks who were in Vegas to see if Wilder could finish off Fury this time, how many were seeing this thing as a “China problem,” and scoffed if they heard that the world was teetering on the edge of pandemic territory?
Not a single soul recommended publicly that the heavyweight rematch between the mammoth specimens be put off, and really, the focus of fight fans was singular. Foreman weighed in during fight week, analyzing the title scrap for the Everlast Talkbox podcast.
“The world will be talking about heavyweight boxing after this match. It’s going to be good for boxing. I love it,” the Texas-based Hall of Famer stated. ”I pick Tyson Fury to win on points. Millions will watch it, and it’ll probably be a controversial decision.”
He was generally on point, and but of course, his tone reflected his general outlook on the sport and life as a whole. Big George is pretty much the Norman Vincent Peale of pugilism.
“Life is so good for me, having the best time of my life,” he said, when I greeted him on the phone and asked him how he’s doing. “So much peace, I can’t believe.”
You can hear it if you listen to the pod — not that I’m totally stunned, but yeah, mildly, I was. So much stuff has been going on, and “stuff” is putting it ever so politely. One month ago, we saw video of George Floyd getting fatally choked by a police officer in Minneapolis, and coronavirus has proven to be a foe possessing incredible stamina, patience, and nastiness. There’s plenty to fixate on, and fret over, no?
“There’s always two ways to look at any matter,” the 73-year-old continued. “These days, with all the matters, you don’t have to look at them as everyone else sees them. You can just look and decide how you’re gonna see them!”
That ability, for him, stems from his finding of a higher power. Born in 1949, he recalled the level of pain he experienced when President John F. Kennedy was slain. George grew up in Houston; in Dallas, on Nov. 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed JFK, riding in a motorcade as part of a visit to aid his re-election chances, fund-raise, and help mend some fences among squabbling Texas Democrats.
“Everything that could break a heart happened to us, and you know what? We recovered,” Foreman said. “I recovered.”
Point being, stuff happens. Dark stuff. Things that you think will try your soul, and break the damn thing. People are frayed now, to varying degrees, and some feel like they are losing their grip on life. I asked George, did darkness ever overwhelm him, to the point he wanted to give up, and throw in the white towel, end his own existence?
“In life especially, if what you want to do is get pretty rich, that always comes to your mind, ‘kill yourself,’ because you realize you can’t buy everything. Certain things, no matter how much money you have, you can’t get them. So everybody thinks that like when you’re wealthy.
“But then I got broke. And I realized that a hamburger, it doesn’t matter how much it costs, as long as you put cheese on it, it’s better than a million dollars. So I learned you can’t always just look at the world and decide it’s bad, if you wanna hurt yourself when the best things in life are free, and no one can take them away from you!”
I admitted, I’d need to mull that more.
“The greatest thing happened to me today,” Foreman continued. He paused. “I woke up! I even saw a couple of my grandkids. My granddaughter now, she’s about graduate from college. That’s the best thing that ever happened to me. What more do I need?”
That question hung in the air a moment.
One of his sons came to him recently and said, “Dad, I’m thinking of getting into politics. Whaddya think?”
“Well,” Papa Foreman said, “the word ‘assassination’ even comes into play in that business. So are you willing to go into that?”
That George Floyd video came into my head. Maybe Foreman sensed it. He talked about fences. They get put up, they get broke, they get fixed. And then, if you’re around long enough, they need to get re-fixed up. Point taken — there’s always work to do. We think we did an exemplary job on that fence. But we let the guard down, maybe a small break in the fence grew because we didn’t check on the thing often enough.
But damn, so much darkness now, no? Aren’t these dark clouds thicker, more stubborn?
“It’s just the same old world,” he counseled.
But one massive change is the prevalence of social media. News breaks, and word is spread to all corners ASAP. It used to be something would happen, and word would get out, but not with such speed.
“You couldn’t see it? Take your time. Now you see, still gotta take your time.”
Another point well taken. Hot takes are rewarded, and patient analysis less so. Don’t rush to judgment so much, don’t be that “hot take” guy, I made a note to myself.
And you see George on Twitter, you know his personality, you know he’s quick with that grin. And, he said, he works on that. Every day, he wants to wake up and be ready to smile.
No, it’s not always easy. Back in the 80s, a contact got power of attorney over him, and was able to make off with a very considerable amount of his earnings. Foreman found out, and paid the guy a visit. The man had an ally with him, in case things went off the rails. And he admitted it: “I did it, George.”
Foreman didn’t say whether he wanted to strangle the guy — but he did admit the debacle tested him. He went back home, and focused on a quote from the Bible that spoke to him. Job’s world had shattered — health, wealth, relationships, nothing was going right.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” was and is his answer, when feeling ultra low.
Keep that faith, in other words, that light will shine in.
“If you’re gonna live in America, you’re gonna have to trust this country,” he went on. “Do what you can to make it better, and you’re gonna have to trust it! You know what, I guarantee you, in a few days, your joy will be totally restored, and you’ll be back on the right foot.”
I wish he could bottle that mindset, I’d buy a case.
“Everything’s gonna be alright. It’s gonna be alright,” he declared. “Things are gonna be fixed by those who fix things.”
And you owe it to act like you have faith in that, especially if you have kids. What if year after year your kid sees the miserable version of you, only lamenting the darkness you see?
“If I can fix the fence, I’m gonna fix it, and if not, I’m gonna trust someone else who’ll say, ‘George, I can do it,’’’ he said.
I didn’t want to, but I had to be the “but” guy. There’s so many miles of fences, George, I said. And I don’t see that much fixing going on.
“You gotta wanna see it,” he stated.
Like during some of his most rugged rumbles, he said, he’d be bleeding and hurting, and he’d go to his corner and Dundee or someone would ask how he’s doing, and he’d say, “Good.” He knew in his heart that next round he’d turn it around.
Straight up, the session helped me. You maybe want to give it a listen, here is the link.