Life and religion
haven't always been this relaxed for Reverend Foreman; it has taken the 10
years since Za�re for him to learn to let go. When the spirit first flooded
him, he thought he had to sweat and pant and wince for it, the way he had for
boxing. He had done everything in his life to an extreme—why should he gulp
Jesus Christ any slower at 28 than he had gulped Strawberry Hill wine at 14 or
Joe Frazier at 24? Soon after his last fight in 1977, he joined a charismatic
church in Houston where the members spoke in tongues and writhed on the floor
and foamed at the mouth for God. He stayed up all night reading the Bible and
within a week was quoting it from memory. He set up a speaker and microphone on
street corners and thundered apocalyptic-warnings, turning the other cheek when
street punks blew cigarette smoke in his face. Once a drunk approached him and
started boxing with him. Foreman held him at arm's length and continued belting
out the Word. Another time, when the police ordered him to leave, he refused
and was arrested.
his car in the middle of the street when he saw someone he knew, pull out the
Bible and start preaching," recalls his brother Roy. "I used to drive
the other way when I saw his car. He'd say, 'You're a devil.' He wouldn't even
go to my wedding because it wasn't at his church. Man, his church reminded me
of The Exorcist—people were throwing up and stuff. Once he offered me $15,000
to go there with him."
Foreman gave the
church $100,000, and a $90,000 loan that wasn't paid back. He shed his fat
rings, traded in his lion and tiger and fancy cars, and put on raggedy shoes,
old socks and overalls. When people asked how he could drive comfortably in his
tiny Ford Fiesta, he'd answer, " Jesus Christ rode on a jackass." His
second marriage, to a former Miss Black Teenage America, dissolved after six
Perhaps he acted
so maniacally to resist the whisper that kept beckoning him back to boxing.
Friends and relatives upon whom he had once bestowed $100 bills told him it was
God's will that he be the champ again. Ali wanted Foreman to remug Norton so
Ali wouldn't have to fight Norton again. "You don't have to quit boxing to
be religious, champ," Ali implored. "Look at David, how he slew
Goliath. Look at Joshua at the Battle of Jericho. Samson beat up all them
people for Gawwwd."
Don King, who had
promoted the Ali-Foreman fight, called with breathless news.
just had this vision!"
"It was like
a dream, George."
Don, tell me."
like Mr. Hayward Moore [a friend of Foreman's who had recently died]. He was
leading you and me together, and you were back in boxing, entering the ring
with a cross on your robe and trunks...."