Boxing champ urges perseverance
Giving up hope was never an option for former Heavy Weight Champion and Olympic gold Medalist George Foreman, who visited UH as part of a tour promoting his latest book Knockout Entrepreneur.
Forman was the key speaker at the Veterans Entrepreneurship Seminar on Wednesday, where he spoke of his trials, tribulations and success, the key elements in his book.
Though Foreman began a life of hard knocks in the Houston area, he soon realized that he could have to take control of his own destiny.
A self proclaimed thug and high school dropout, it was a near arrest that lead Foreman to change his ways and join the Job Corps. During his stint in the corps, Forman gained more education and his boxing license, which forever changed his future.
“I came home with that little boxers license to intimidate people,” he said. “ I wanted them to know I had lethal weapons.”
The license made Foreman aware of his environment and gave him the initiative he needed to leave a life of poverty.
“I was actually living in poverty and the only way I could get out was to make a lot of money-not a little but a lot of money-and that’s when the entrepreneurial [spirit] jolted me. Right then, I knew I would have to go into business … and that little card, would be my key,” Foreman said.
During Foreman’s early life he heard time and again that he would never amount to anything. After obtaining his boxer’s license, Foreman’s goal was to return to Houston with a $1,000 and open a private bar so that he and his friends would no longer have to hide cigarettes.
As Foreman’s career began to escalate to extraordinary heights, becoming the heavy weight champion of the world, that $1,000 dream was never revisited. One boxing match after another he climbed his way to the top.
In 1974, Foreman received $5 million for his fight with Muhammad Ali, it was not until then that he realized that he had been taking boxing for granted. Although Foreman had lost his reign as champion, he never lost hope.
“Sometimes you forget what you’re doing out there and why you’re doing it, when I got home and got that money out of the bank. I still wanted to be champion, and I kept striving to be the best boxer in the world,” he said.
After a ten year retirement, “something profound happened,” he said. “I woke up, and I was broke.”
Broke, middle-aged, and being a solid 315 pounds could not strip away the hope that Foreman harbored deep inside. Determined to rebuild his fortune, Foreman had to start from the beginning, fighting in small venues for minimal amounts of money.
“You don’t start on top; nobody does. Blessed are the meek … in business, you can’t be embarrassed,” he said.
Foreman believed in himself, his talent, and his ability to overcome; this self-belief brought in lucrative endorsements and soon birthed his mega-million venture, The George Foreman grill.
“The job of an athlete is not to win a thousand dollars or a million dollars; the job of any man is to keep earning,” he said. “It is not about how much you have; it is about how much you earn.”