George Foreman's Rise To The Top

US champion boxer George Foreman is pictured on 06 October 2004 in Frankfurt/M. during a presentation of his so-called Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine. MARTIN OESER/AFP/GETTY

CBS News Correspondent Harold Dow recently visited the home of boxing legend George Foreman to discuss the success he's enjoyed as an athlete, a father and an entrepreneur.

Inside Foreman's horse stable, Dow met a namesake of the former boxer.

Dow: What's this horse's name?

Foreman: This is Champ.

Dow: Champ, O.K.

Foreman: This is the champ.

No doubt named after the man of the house, George Edward Foreman. Two-time heavyweight boxing champion. World class salesman and father of 10.

Dow: Now, what's your son's name, George?

Foreman: This is George right here. His name is George.

And yes, he did name all five of his sons George.

Foreman: George Edward Foreman. Five sons all named George. You got Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Kenny Norton, Ron Lyle ... you let those people hit you on the head and see how many names you gonna remember. It would be confusing.

Dow: So you kept it simple?

Foreman: I kept it simple. I never forget a name.

And he's just co-written a book about his sons, a children's story called "Let George Do It." The parent company of the publisher also owns CBS.

Foreman: You learn George, that word. Then you learn it again. Next thing you know, you're going to have a whole book because 60 percent of the words in that book are George. That's the part I wrote.

Foreman lives on 40 acres outside of Houston with his fifth wife and many of his children.

He says, "The grill helps feed them."

The grill. A kitchen appliance that few were buying until George Foreman agreed to market it in exchange for a piece of the company. In the 10 years since, Foreman says they've sold nearly 70 million of the various George Foreman grilling machines.

Foreman: When you go through the airport sometimes and people stop and say 'George, we love the grill', that's greater than them telling me, 'George, you did a good job becoming heavyweight champ of the world.'

Add his other endorsements, and it's been estimated that this uncommon man with the common touch has made nearly a quarter-billion dollars as a product pitchman -- three times his earnings in the ring.

Foreman's road to success started in an unlikely place -- Houston's tough fifth ward neighborhood, where poor and hungry led to mean and dangerous. He learned to box at 16, won Olympic gold at 19 and at 24 defeated Joe Frazier to become world champion. The next year, he defended his title in Zaire in one of the most famous fights in history. The "Rumble in the Jungle," against Muhammad Ali.

Foreman: I beat him up for the first three rounds, four rounds. I think I even beat him up in the sixth round, too. Then all of a sudden, I hit him in the seventh round and he whispered in my ear, 'that all you got George?' And that was all I had. You heard of the rope-a-dope?

Dow: Heard of the rope-a-dope.

Foreman: Well, here's the dope.

At the time, Foreman was devastated.

Foreman: I was young, only 25 years old. I didn't know what to do. I thought my life was over because when you lose the championship, it's not like you lost a title, you lose yourself because it's like you're, you're not a man anymore.

Three years later, after another loss, Foreman had a religious experience that changed his life.

Foreman: In a split second I was dead, over my head, under my feet. All around me was nothing, nothing but loneliness and emptiness and nothingness. And I just said, I don't care if this is death. I still believe there's a God. When I said that I was rescued out of nothing, alive in that dressing room again, with blood flowing through my veins, screaming Jesus Christ is coming alive in me.

There was little left of that mean kid from the fifth ward. Foreman became an evangelist, preaching first on street corners, then in his own church.

Dow: And you took 10 years away.

Foreman: 10 years.

Dow: Away from boxing?

Foreman: 10 years. I didn't even make a fist. I didn't box. I didn't try to box. I was done with it. I was a preacher. A happy, fat preacher.

He opened the George Foreman Youth and Community Center, a safe place for kids to hang out.

Foreman: I just wanted to keep them around and keep them out of trouble. Show them how to box. This is what I knew how to do. And yet, get the anger out of them.

Dow: Why did you go back into the ring again, George?

Foreman: I went back into boxing, really, profound - money.

Dow: You needed the cash?

Foreman: I had to get back into boxing because I was literally out of money.

So at 37, George Foreman began his comeback. Ridiculed at first. Too old, they said. Too fat. Too slow. But, he was also too strong, and in 1994, more than 20 years after he beat Joe Frazier for the title, George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer and was world champion again. No 45-year-old man had ever won the title.

Dow: Did you get more enjoyment out of boxing the second time around?

Foreman: Second time around, I was so happy about so many things, it made for a better athlete.

Dow: Some people have said they heard you say you might want to do it again George.

Foreman: You know.

Dow: Tell us that's not true.

Foreman: I wanna box again. I'm not gonna lie. I even got, went back into training for a small period of time. Getting in shape, ready to go. My wife told me, 'no, you can't do it.'

Dow: O.K., so who's the boss?

Foreman: I haven't gone back.

These days, at 56, there's no time for boxing. Among his projects, he's marketing a line of big and tall clothing for the casual male.

Dow: What makes the George Foreman line of clothes so special?

Foreman: Well, most importantly, on all the tags, it's got George Foreman.

Dow: It's got George Foreman.

He's still pitching and he's still preaching.

Foreman: That's my calling. To be a preacher is really my calling; it's my job. I only moonlight as a boxer and a salesperson.

Dow: Are you content with your life? Or are you still driven?

Foreman: I'm driven. I like the life I'm living, but I'm driven because there's so much more to obtain. I'm one of those guys who gonna have to fall out of the saddle. There's always one more star to reach for, and I'm trying to.
  • Sean Alfano

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