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Archie McDonald Speaker Series: George Foreman

Aired Monday,  July 12, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.
George Edward Foreman Sr. was on January 10, 1949, in the town of Marshall, Texas. An impoverished youth, Foreman was headed for trouble and became a mugger and brawler on the hard streets of Houston’s 5th ward by age 15. His path changed when he attended the Lyndon Johnson's Job Corps program, which helped troubled kids. Foreman traveled to California, where he met Job Corps counselor and boxing coach Doc Broaddus, who encouraged Foreman to become a fighter. His first career began and after only 24 amateur fights he succeeded in winning the Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympics. Following this, he turned professional and within two years, he was ranked the No. 1 challenger. By 1972 his impressive record was 37 wins (most by knockout) and no losses. In 1973 be earned the heavyweight champion title after knocking out the great Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica. Then, in the summer of 1974, he lost this title in what is considered one of the greatest fights of all time, the much-hyped "Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, Zaire.

After taking 1975 off, he returned to boxing, winning a number of fights before losing by decision to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico in 1977. It was in his dressing room after the fight that Foreman had a religious experience; he then gave up boxing and became a born-again Christian. He became an ordained minister and began preaching in his hometown of Houston, Texas. In 1984, he founded the George Foreman Youth and Community Center, a non-denominational place for kids who need direction like he once did. In order to continue his positive work in the community, in 1987 he return to boxing! Many doubted his ability, but he proved his detractors wrong by winning fights into his 40s. In 1991 he had a shot at the title, but lost to Evander Holyfield by decision. The loss made George stronger and in 1994 he took on the new champ Michael Moorer and knocked him out in the 10th round.  Foreman became, at age 44, the oldest fighter ever to win the heavyweight crown.

By the time Foreman retired from boxing (again) in 1999, he was well on his way to a second career as a businessman. Since the early 1990s, Foreman had discovered his talent for salesmanship, and by the end of the decade, he was making millions off of infomercials marketing the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine which has sold over 100 million units to date. He later launched a line of environmentally safe cleaning products, an exclusive line of personal care products, a health shake called George Foreman’s Life Shake, a prescription shoe for diabetics to prevent amputations, a restaurant franchise called UFood Grille, 10 books, and the list continues to build.

When not promoting his products, George tends to his ministry and charitable work, including most recently his “Knock-Out Pediatric Cancer” initiative. He spends free time with his family or with his horses on his ranch in Marshall.  

Archie P. McDonald (b. Nov. 29, 1935 - d. Aug. 16, 2012) aught history at Stephen F. Austin State University for 47 years. He served as host and author of a commentary series on Red River Radio for more than a decade and also served on our community advisory board. He served as director of the East Texas Historical Association and editor of the Association’s Journal for 37 years. He was a past president of the Texas State Historical Association, past vice chair of the Texas Historical Commission, and author/editor of more than 20 books on historical topics—and one book of humor titled Helpful Cooking Hints for House Husbands of Uppity Women. Along with teaching, McDonald served as SFA's community liaison. His Red River Radio commentaries aired for many years on Fridays at 7:35 a.m.