One night we had
mugged a guy. We left him on the sidewalk yelling, "Come back!" We were
walking along, counting the money, and a police car pulled up across the
street. I ran underneath a house that was built up on bricks, like they do them
in Houston. I covered myself with mud under there. I figured the police would
bring German shepherds, and dogs can't smell through water. I saw the police
lights go by and heard the cars. I laid for hours under that house, seeing
those lights and hearing those cars. When it was safe, I ran home with mud
messed all over me.
My mother Nancy
was the boss of our house. There were four boys and three girls, and my daddy
didn't live with us after I was three or four. I don't remember him living
there at all. Mama was very strict on religion. She's a Baptist, worked too
hard to go to church herself, but she believed in plenty of praying and
talking. If you did something wrong, she'd say, "You better get in there
and pray, boy!" I took a lot of my strength from her. My daddy, J.D., he's
a wonder. Man, people love to come and talk to him. If he was pleased with me,
he used to say, "There he is, George Foreman, the heavyweight champion of
the world." That stuck with me. It truly did.
I went through a
bunch of counseling. The main question they never asked me, the question you
ought to ask a kid, or even a grownup, is: "Who do you secretly
admire?" Might be an international figure, might be somebody in the
neighborhood. It gives a look into a person. I happened to see some TV
commercials about the Job Corps made by Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown. Those guys
were my heroes. Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas said on TV to join the Job Corps,
and I could get myself noticed.
The Job Corps
sent me from Houston to Hayward, Calif., where Doc Broadus urged me into
boxing. I won the Olympic heavyweight championship when I was 19. Funny thing,
after that there was a big gap between me and guys my own age. They'd be going
off to parties, and I decided that I wouldn't drink or smoke or go to parties.
I started being a loner. After I turned pro I might be in New York for a fight,
and I would walk the streets by myself and eat dinner by myself and sleep by
myself. I was scared of meeting girls because I had been warned of the traps I
could get into.
My best friend
was a Doberman pinscher who was killed by a car while we were running on the
highway in Houston three months before the title fight with Frazier. I have
been looking for the right dog to replace him. I've got nine German shepherds
new, one a world champion from Germany.
I had always
wanted a lion because he is the king of beasts. So I got me a lion now. Never
dreamed I'd look out my door and see a lion! I also have four horses and a bull
at my house in Livermore. I love to watch that old bull walk around with all
his muscles. Then an animal trainer told me about the tiger—how a tiger is a
natural fighter, never takes a step more than necessary. I bought a tiger to
learn from it. One thing, you have to have yourself together to sit down and
pet a tiger. The tiger looks right through you, and if you are even a little
bit nervous, you are betrayed.
So here I am. And
if it's true that I wasn't blessed with all the maturity I needed, I'm doing
all right. I have a $250,000 home in Houston, another home in Houston for my
mother, a $250,000 home in Livermore, where I train, some annuities and about
10 cars. There's a 32-foot mobile home, a Rolls-Royce convertible, a
custom-built Lincoln Continental, a high-class sports car called an Excalibur,
two Mercedes, two Pintos, a Capri, a pickup truck, one Cadillac. The Cadillac
is for my mother, so that really leaves me with 10.
Nobody drives the
cars. I'm the kind of guy that people don't touch my stuff. But I know that
with maturity I won't need to hang onto all these worldly goods for security. I
feel that I am about at the place now where I can get rid of all those
vehicles. Well, maybe I will keep the mobile home, the truck, the Rolls, a
Mercedes or two, my mother's Cadillac for sure. There I go again, back up!
I've decided to
hit the road again, get back to fighting. Jim Brown, the movie star and great
athlete, has got with me, and we've been working with promoter Jerry Perenchio,
and he came up with Ron Lyle as an opponent on Jan. 24 at Caesars Palace in Las
Vegas. My trainer is now Kid Rapidez, also known as Alfredo Cruz, from Cuba. I
liked the way he took Jose Napoles to the welterweight title. Gil Clancy
supervises my training. He's had some good fighters, Emile Griffith and Ralph
( Tiger) Jones and Jerry Quarry—he knows what people think they have to do to
beat me. It really feels good to be back and to be working.
It felt good for
my first comeback fight a couple of weeks ago, standing in the ring in my
red-white-and-blue trunks and all. And then the announcer called me George
. He felt embarrassed about it, but I gave him this great big smile, and
the audience laughed along with us, and everything felt right. I could feel the
folks with me right then.