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AFTER THE FALL
Gary Smith
October 08, 1984
Ten years ago this month George Foreman and Muhammad Ali met in the ring in Za�re. While Ali won that war, it's Foreman who has found lasting peace
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October 08, 1984

After The Fall

Ten years ago this month George Foreman and Muhammad Ali met in the ring in Za�re. While Ali won that war, it's Foreman who has found lasting peace

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"Follow me!" he yelled, "Come to my house!"

They looked at him like he wasn't real, then joined the six-car, 20-person convoy headed toward Ali's mansion. In the backseat of Ali's car, 12-year-old Muhammad Jr. cupped his mouth and called out like a circus barker, "Everyone follow the great Muhammad Ali!"

By 1980 Reverend Foreman had begun to realize that spewing passages from the Bible wasn't enough and had left his first church, bought an acre of land and the prefab building, and started a church where no one spoke in tongues or frothed at the mouth. But he still couldn't let go of the distrust of people he'd built up on street corners and in boxing gyms.

He married for a third time in 1981; his first marriage, in 1972, had produced one child. His second, in 1981, was childless. Six months after that third marriage he lay on the floor of his bedroom for an entire night, sobbing and clutching a bedpost. She, too, had gone. Then, in 1982, he got married for a fourth time, to Andrea Skeet, from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. In June of '83, he came home to find his house emptied of wife, their two children, Freeda and George III, pictures and clothes.

He sank to his knees and stared through his tears at the wreckage of his life. The man who had ranted "Love thy neighbor!" on street corners couldn't properly love the mothers of his children. The four women he had married and his five offspring—two of his children were born to women George hadn't married—were gone. He was alone.

A frenzy seized him. Suddenly, all salvation seemed to lie in finding Freeda and George III, whom his wife had taken to St. Lucia. He knew he must act quickly or he might never see them again. It would be dangerous; Andrea's family played a prominent role in the island's government, and the moment the ex-world champion stepped onto the tiny island, everyone would know.

He flew to Barbados and chartered a plane for the 100-mile flight to St. Lucia, where he sneaked past customs. He hid behind a tree on the beach while his luggage was checked through, then he was whisked to a hotel and checked in under a false name. He looked at himself, lying and hiding, and wondered what had become of him. But something he couldn't comprehend drove him.

Handing out thousand-dollar bribes, he discovered the hotel where Andrea and his two children were staying. That night he went there with Erma Compton. a local woman who'd agreed to help him—ironically, she had once sued Foreman for beating her. Compton knocked on the door and told the kids' nanny she wanted to leave a note for the mother. Foreman burst in, swept up the children, and returned to his hotel.

"Baby, what you want?" he cried, hugging his children ferociously.

"I want a McDonald's," declared 6-year-old Freeda.

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