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TSN Archives: George Foreman, Hallelujah! (Feb. 10, 1973, issue)

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This column, by regular contributor Furman Bisher, first appeared in the Feb. 10, 1973, issue of The Sporting News under the headline, “Foreman, Hallelujah,” after George Foreman’s second-round knockout of Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica, to win the world heavyweight championship. The column reflects the generally negative opinion many held at the time of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who wasn’t named in the column but clearly was referenced.

Who do they think they’re kidding? George Foreman, heavyweight champion of the world? Nice, quiet, sensitive fellow who salutes the flag, answers when his draft board calls and admits there have been champions before and expects there’ll be champions after him?

This we have as the best the world can offer with his fists?

Pshaw! Somebody’s got to be garbling the type from Jamaica. C’mon, now, do they capitalize the “F” or is that just the first letter in a new job he got at the factory? And that first name — George. He’s a real prize fighter, a real master at mayhem, a dreadful devastator, why hasn’t some clever press agent slapped some catchy nickname on him to get attention? Like “Killer,” “Battlin’,” “Four-Alarm,” “Kayo,” or the “Hayward Haymaker”?

YOU DON’T call the heavyweight champion of your world just plain “George.” That sounds like you’re asking for your car to be sent around to the front, or to have your bath water drawn.

Maybe there’s some indication there that the fight game finally is developing a heart. There were times when some guy in a checkered vest and a derby hat and spats would pick up some imbecile on the street, take him to the gym, train him, give him some flashy nickname that made him noticeable, then feed him into the nation’s parlors and beer halls through a television tube.

This fellow is so normal they finally threw up their hands and said, “Okay, go ahead. Call him ‘George.’” But I tell you it won’t work. Jack Dempsey would still be working on the railroad in Colorado if some bright fellow hadn’t thought to call him the “Manassa Mauler” and Joe Louis would still be picking cotton in Buffalo, Ala., if he hadn’t been made “the Brown Bomber.”

GEORGE FOREMAN isn’t just square, he’s rectangular. He’s honest, earnest, forthright, zealous, sincere, humble, reverent and sparkling bright. He makes Mr. Clean look like engine sludge.

He goes around waving the American flag. The champion twice removed used to tell it to go to hell. He rips off such old-fashioned one-liners as, “I’m proud to be an American.” The champion twice removed said he’d rather be an Arabian knight. He told his draft board if it had any wars to fight, not to call him, he’d call it. Or turn it over to his lawyer.

Yet, George Foreman had to leave the country he professes such love for to get his chance to win the title. Prize-fighting had reached such a state of ill repute in this country that he and Joe Frazer had to take their business to an island in the West Indies which struggles on an economy of bananas, rum and tourists. Here he found a warmer welcome than he had found in the U.S., and became a sudden hero. Still, he declared his affection for his native country. 

FRAZIER HAD no idea what he was walking into. He thought it would take only a few minutes. He told his driver to leave the motor running, he’d be right back.

He was back quicker than he expected. He didn’t expect it to take 15. But he thought it would take more than two. He also thought it would be Frazier taking Foreman like a man takes an aspirin. 

I don’t know what they’re going to do now in a world that doesn’t have a heavyweight champ who doesn’t go around pouting off kindergarten verse, saying he’s the greatest, changing his name and spitting in the face of patriotism. Or one who hasn’t the audacity to try to pass himself off as a night club singer, which would insult even the intelligence of the possum-eating level.

INSTEAD, WE’RE stuck with George Foreman, a man you can take your child up to and say with pride, “Son, this is the heavyweight champion of the world.”

Then you can tell the child how George fought it out first with the police in Houston, how he had a string of 200 broken windows going before they nailed him. How he roamed the streets looking for trouble if trouble hadn’t looked him up lately. Then how he corrected all that and hooked on with the Job Corps, where he began to understand things he hadn’t understood about life before. And how Doc Broadus finally introduced him to boxing one day.

He didn’t like it at first, and now he’s champion of the world. He’s of such humility that he seems almost to be apologizing for what he has done. He kept trying to tell them in Frazier’s corner to stop it before somebody got hurt. Now he’s saying, “I only borrowed it, I’ll have to give it back, and when it’s time, I’ll do so, smiling.”

WHERE’S THE killer in him? Why doesn’t he lambast somebody, pour it on the people who made him the underdog, tell them how stupid they are? George simply doesn’t understand. This is no way to be the heavyweight champ. Of all things, for instance, training in the Boys Club in Hayward. Frazier trained in a boys’ club, too — Playboys’ Club.

But George, he flew home to see the wife and baby. To pay his dues to America, to wave the flag some more. He isn’t jogging off to Nevada to bang the tambourines and belabor the night in a hoarse croak. Or changing his name because he can’t stand his image.

The sweet world of pugilism is in a state of shock. Its ship has run aground. It hadn’t counted on this. Frazier was supposed to be the butcher, Foreman the lamb. The boys are still in the back room trying to reassemble the pieces. Meanwhile, out here where America lives, at last we got a champ we can live with. Hallelujah!

TSN Archives: Too good to be true? (Feb. 10, 1973, issue)

The following unsigned editorial — under the headline, “TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?” — first appeared in the Feb. 10, 1973, issue of The Sporting News, the week after George Foreman’s stunning second-round knockout of Joe Frazier  in Kingston, Jamaica, to win the world heavyweight championship.

Many critics have questioned whether boxing is worth saving, but there’s little doubt that a likely savior has arrived. The stories accompanying the ascent of George Foreman to the world heavyweight title read as if they sprang from the fertile imaginations of such master promoters as Tex Rickard and Mike Jacobs.

Foreman, however, is one fighter who doesn’t need a drum-beater to capture public esteem. Five years ago, millions of TV viewers saw him march around the ring carrying an American flag after he’d won the Olympic crown. In his dressing room following his stunning victory over Joe Frazier, Foreman called his closest associates around and asked them to pray with him.

One of his staunchest backers is Sargent Shriver, 1972 Democratic vice-presidential candidate who met Foreman after George had enrolled in the Job Corps with a reputation as a bad actor in constant conflict with the police. Says Shriver: “He sounds like a square, but he is for real. This is a genuine man. He is not stupid or dull or uninteresting. There’s nothing fake about him. He is intensely loyal to friends.”

Leroy Jackson, former Job Corps counselor and now business advisor to the world heavyweight champ, says of Foreman: “He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t cheat on his wife. He is such a straight guy you wouldn’t believe it. They don’t make his kind much any more.”

Even if George is only half of what his admirers say he is, his arrival at the top has to be cause for rejoicing. Let’s hope success never spoils George Foreman.




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