SI Vault
Richard Hoffer
July 17, 1989
George Foreman lost his world heavyweight title 15 years ago, but now his appetite for boxing has returned, and he covets Mike Tyson as the entrée
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July 17, 1989

Still Hungry After All These Years

George Foreman lost his world heavyweight title 15 years ago, but now his appetite for boxing has returned, and he covets Mike Tyson as the entrée

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THEN THERE WAS AN EXHIBITION IN TORONTO—five men in one night—his swan song in San Juan against Young, and the immediate spiritual revelation that followed. He also had a pretty big fight back in 1966 in Pleasanton, Calif., a fight not much reported and seen by only a dozen or so youth counselors. The Job Corps may have saved Lester Hayes's skin but it didn't guarantee everyone's safety. On this particular day Foreman was administering a terrific butt kicking to some kid who probably wished Jim Brown had never been born.

Doc Broadus, a man who fancied berets and riding quirts, was a Job Corps supervisor at the time. His special interest was developing boxers. He figures that's why the panicky counselors finally came to him that day, explaining that this great big guy, this 16-year-old, was endangering a fellow volunteer's life that minute. Ten counselors couldn't handle him.

So Broadus left his gym and walked out to see what was happening. Broadus was prepared to be more disgusted with the helpless staff—"all these educated counselors"—than with this great big guy. But the level of violence on which this great big guy was working truly impressed him. "He was stomping the kid, being very brutal about it," Broadus says. He remembers thinking that there was a state prison, Santa Rita, across the street, and what Foreman was doing qualified him for immediate admission there, no waiting.

Broadus walked into the middle of this, parted the terrified counselors who stood helplessly by and walked right up to Foreman. "Hey, big man," Broadus said. "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size."

You are tempted to look through George Foreman's life and ask, Why did these certain words, or this commercial, or that speech galvanize him? What was it about these small meddlings that kept turning his life around?

Well, Broadus's approach wouldn't make one think of Mr. Chips, but for Foreman, it would have to do. Foreman let his poor victim drop to the ground and turned to look at this strange man. Broadus remembers that look, and he remains surprised by it to this day. "It was a look, like asking for help. It was all over his face: Help me. Here he was, big and strong, everybody afraid of him, and he was giving me this look. It kind of tickled me. It was like he had been waiting all his life for this."

Broadus put his arm around Foreman and said, "C'mon, big fella, let's walk and talk."

Before you knew it, Foreman had become Olympic champion under Broadus's supervision, and then heavyweight champion of the world under Dick Sadler. He was rich and famous. Because somebody told him to pick on kids his own size? Because Mr. America told him he belonged somewhere? Because Jim Brown made a commercial? Sure.

There are probably all kinds of people who can help a kid who's a little down and out. But Foreman found he was newly adrift when he became rich and famous. Where are the role models for somebody who turns 25 and is offered $5 million paydays?

Take the idea of buying things. Foreman says the experience is highly overrated, and he gave it a pretty fair chance, too. As the money rolled in he bought, by his guess, 10 cars. A 32-foot mobile home. Quarter-million-dollar homes in Houston and Livermore, Calif. Exotic animals. He boned up on the breeding of German shepherds and finally bought that prize dog from Germany.

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