Heavyweight force George Foreman was the subject of jokes and hysteria when he decided to dust off his gloves at 38.
A youthful George Foreman took a ten-year sabbatical in 1977, never knowing whether he would one day step back into a boxing ring in anger.
His world-famous defeat to Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa had left George mentally vulnerable and questioning his ability.
Three years later, a shock points loss to Jimmy Young in San Juan sent him over the edge. Foreman reclused into a shell and wanted nothing more to do with the sport he loved.
George Foreman’s 1987 comeback
An event of born-again-Christian proportions led Foreman to launch an astonishing comeback in 1987.
At the time, Foreman was laughed at by detractors. In an interview with Jenna J of On The Ropes Radio, the man revealed his feelings.
“Because of my age [38 at that time], when I told everyone I was coming back into boxing at my weight, they laughed at me,” Foreman told OTR.
‘He’s too fat. He’s too old’. I’d hear those things, but every time I looked into the mirror, I’d say to myself, ‘Look, people are saying those things about you, but hey, it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not.
“You got to look out for your family. You got to support the youth center’. I traveled all over the country. I’d get into the ring.
“I was so big, but I kept working out, and I kept training.”
He continued: “I listened to the jokes about me. As a matter of fact, I started to laugh with them. People didn’t notice that I wasn’t mad.
“I was laughing because I had ten years of telling people who lost loved ones to have faith.
“You can do anything. All things are possible. For the first time, I had really used the product I had been selling, ‘have faith.’ I did. I had more than enough faith to do anything.”
Eighteen straight knockouts later, and Foreman was back in the hunt for a world title shot. Eventually, the Olympic gold medalist would create history.
Asked by Jenna about the whole age thing and eventually becoming the oldest heavyweight champion ever, Foreman said he felt justified.
“Yeah, you think about twenty years, a whole twenty-year time span passed. I told people that wasn’t George Foreman in Africa (against Ali).
“I could have been champion of the world, I had all these excuses, and people laughed at me.
“Twenty years later, I’m in the ring given a chance. There’s redemption. From that point on, even for myself on a personal basis, I could sit back with some kind of contentment to say, ‘I told you.’
“But it was back to preaching and being a father again – no big deal.
“You have one moment in life where you can say, ‘I did it, thank God for it.’ – The next day is about getting to the church, preaching, and doing your work.”
A movie about George Foreman’s life will be released in theaters soon.