The first boxing match I ever attended was Oct. 2, 1980. As I watched from my ringside seat, Larry Holmes pummeled Muhammad Ali into what should have been his final match.
Ali, who lost one more time 14 months later to Trevor Berbick, was taken apart by Holmes, who won after the 10th round of the scheduled 15-round match.
It was one of two boxing matches where I recall crying in the immediate aftermath. I was 11 years old, and the tears flowed, watching my hero take a beating.
More than 14 years later, on Nov. 5, 1994, as a young 25-year-old reporter, I sat with a media credential around my neck inside MGM Grand Garden and witnessed history.
The tear that night was a different sort of emotion, and only one welled in each eye, as there was a sense of pride in being able to see what took place.
George Foreman had endured thunderous blows from Michael Moorer, and Angelo Dundee – the same man who wouldn’t allow Ali to continue in the 11th round on that night 14 years, 1 month and 3 days earlier – told “Big George” he’d need a knockout to win this fight.
From an initial body shot, to several combinations, Foreman seized control and eventually landed a powerful right flush on Moorer’s jaw.
Ten seconds later, history.
“It happened! IT HAPPENED!!” Jim Lampley famously shouted during his call for HBO Sports.
Eleven seconds later, tears.
THE MIRACULOUS STORY
Nearly 30 later ESPN Las Vegas radio host Steve Cofield and I talked to Foreman in exclusive interview to discuss the release of his new movie.
“Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World” will hit theaters on Friday.
“I’ve written these books, one in particular was ‘God In My Corner,’ and the movie was taken from that book,” Foreman said. “It’s easy to watch your life on pages because people have to use their imagination, but not so easy when they bring it to art on film. Because there’s some embarrassing moments I had in my life.
“When they’re doing a movie you try to tell your whole story, but they had to cut a lot of things out. And I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could have cut a lot of things out of my life.’ Some of the things I’ve had to go through that I didn’t want to relive again. But the movie, they captured what it was all about.”
Khris Davis portrays Foreman in the movie, and the former champion of the world couldn’t have been any more pleased.
“You don’t want to say ‘I want a celebrity to play George Foreman,’ you truly wanted an actor,” Foreman said. “And that’s what we got in Khris Davis. George Tillman, the director, brought this guy out and he made him George Foreman – the George Foreman that I can sit back in my seat and enjoy.”
Reminded of that historic night at the MGM Grand Garden, standing in the neutral corner while referee Joe Cortez counted out Moorer, Foreman explained the difficulty of officially hanging up the boxing gloves.
After all, Foreman had taken 10 years out of boxing where he didn’t even make a fist because he “didn’t want people to see a boxer and when they saw the preacher in” him, before making his comeback and eventually taking the title from Moorer.
“Then having to come back,” he said. “I had to work myself back in condition and get a lot of respect. Getting that victory over Michael Moore was something spectacular for me. It ever lives in my mind.
“The hardest thing is not becoming a boxer, getting into boxing, the hardest part of it is getting out of boxing. How do yourself out of this situation, because you keep saying to yourself, ‘just one more, just one more purse.’ And you stay in it. Sometimes you can overstay your welcome.”
And from the heavyweight champion of the world to pitchman – promoting everything from Doritos to Pepsi Cola, and McDonald’s, and eventually his own George Foreman Grill, Foreman parlayed his image from boxer to preacher, to boxer again, to businessman.
It all comes full circle on the big screen for the world to see, the story of Big George Foreman.