In his heyday, the first one anyway, George Foreman was little
more than a complicated delivery system for pain, a surly man
whose windup malevolence found a peculiar commercial and barely
legal application in boxing. If you remember, he was rewarded
beyond all get-out, such is our appetite for remorseless
destruction--observed at a safe-enough remove, of course. During
his championship reign, right up to the moment that Muhammad
Ali goofily defused his menace, Foreman's fine-tuned cruelty
was essential to his extravagant appeal. He had heard, for
example, that a blow to the top of the head was most painful of
all, so, in a fiendish filigree that excited some awful cluster
of neurons in our own brain stems (and, in a tradition that
predated Mike Tyson, created more box office than was thought
possible), he was careful to conk his opponents accordingly. He
got rich and famous for it and, among many other things, bought
a dog for $21,000.
That was actually a couple of heydays ago, and the miracle of
Foreman's transformation has been oft-explored, though never
really explained. A religious conversion, in the guise of
postfight delirium in a Puerto Rico dressing room, may account
for his first retirement from boxing, which sent him on an
evangelical mission/eating binge. And a financial crunch, after
he exhausted his seemingly inexhaustible plunder, is certainly
what propelled his comeback at the age of 38 and the weight of
who-knows and carried him to one of the most improbable titles in
all of sports.
Yet of all his heydays, the current one might be the strangest.
Now 54, weight still who-knows, Foreman has somehow emerged from
the rubble of his terrible past to become an icon of
kindness--still rewarded beyond all get-out, mind you--his
jack-o'-lantern smile providing a huge economic advantage over
any blow to the top of a head. He stands in his "garage"
surveying his (partial) fleet of 28 exotic automobiles; he flies
to his HBO broadcasting duties in a private jet; he strides
across his ranch in Marshall, Texas, inspecting his herd of
Icelandic stallions; he walks through construction at his new
home in suburban Houston, pointing out where the indoor koi pond
will be, the whole idea of it being that he and his wife would
have a place to sit in the air conditioning and argue in comfort.
Otherwise, he hadn't wanted the spread.
His new wealth is staggering--this is the heyday of all
heydays--and his celebrity, even as he turns more to a life of
good deeds, just keeps exploding. It's partly the grill or it's
mostly the grill, a kitchen appliance launched in the mid-1990s
that carries his name, his crazily exaggerated grin and his
implied promise of satisfaction in all things. But something else
resonates in his weird celebrity, besides the luck of placing 50
million of these fat-sluicing grilling machines in kitchens
throughout the world, or Ron Popeil would be more beloved than he
is. There is something else about George Foreman, something he
communicates in that forced smile of his, that has us keening for
a piece of him, shoving paper in front of him for autographs,
hollering his name for a shared glance, hoping for a hug in an
Is it simply the reassuring idea of personal reinvention in our
do-it-yourself age, when any public evidence of change seems to
enhance our own middling prospects? Is it simply the idea,
demonstrated in Foreman's ever-growing wealth and wisdom, that
the cosmos remains tickled by ambition, amused by our makeovers,
tolerant of our persistent and feeble stabs at psychic
reorganization? You could buy that championship dog! You could
become a heavyweight king, a preacher, a gadget huckster, a
millionaire--centimillionaire--rancher! You could have a youth
center, a jet, a hospital floor named after you, a koi pond where
you don't have to dab your perspiring neck to see fat, colorful
fish swimming about for your pleasure.
Serial self-improvement is, by Foreman's example, not only
possible but apparently inescapable. His seamless transmutations
from bully to preacher, thug to smiling uncle figure, poor kid to
business mogul, are exciting to us all. There are second acts,
third acts, as many as you're willing to play. You just need some
energy, some lucky interventions, an appetite for revelation. It
will all come to you.
Of course, it's not free. Nothing is free. The toll of such
personal improvement is sufficiently high that it discourages
most amateurs, or else we'd all have indoor koi ponds and worry
about children poorer than our own. People who know George
Foreman and find themselves on his e-mail list might guess at his
torment. Every morning they wake up, and there's a fresh batch of
messages from the big buffoon, the time tags being the only
suggestion of his residual anguish. "How's Lovey?" he writes
promoter Bob Arum, whose wife once had a cancer scare. Or to his
partner in that fantastic Foreman Grill empire: "If the skewer is
square, instead of round, the meat won't slip when it rotates."
They flood out of his computer in these wee Texas hours, 3 a.m.,
4 a.m., when people less dedicated to personal renovation--less
subject to remorse, anyway, less likely to examine the bedrock of
cruelty upon which all is built, certainly--sleep like babies.
Leon Dreimann took over Salton, Inc., in 1987, when its product
line was thin and weird. The company had been famous and
successful in the postwar years with the Hotray, an electric
serving platter. But by the time Dreimann was brought in, the
firm had only $8 million in sales, at least some of it from a
radio that was made to float in a swimming pool.
Dreimann developed a hit with a sandwich maker but, in a
novelty-driven industry, was always an appliance away from real
success. By 1994 the company was again mired in do-nothing
inventory, still looking for that breakaway gizmo--this year's
food processor, next season's robot vacuum cleaner.
It was about then that Dreimann heard from a Los Angeles attorney
named Sam Perlmutter, whose big idea was to put a notorious
consumer of cheeseburgers, say George Foreman, in an infomercial
with a cheeseburger cooker. The machine was there, had been
there. (Dreimann had the product on his shelf in Chicago.) It
just needed some marketing genius and a distributing arm. And a
Dreimann, who had spent most of his professional life managing
Salton's Australian distributorship, may have had marketing
genius, but not enough to recognize this as a natural fit. He
barely knew who George Foreman was, for one thing. With very few
hopes for either Foreman or the product, he agreed in March 1995
to pair them up at The Gourmet Products Show, which happened to
be held in Las Vegas that year.
Foreman, for his part, was at the peak of his reluctant comeback,
having recently won the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at the age
of 45, clocking Michael Moorer the previous fall. The entire
escapade had been conducted as a vaudeville tour, with Foreman
making great shtick of his weight and age, beating critics, and
eventually Moorer, to the punch.
He hadn't wanted to fight again in the first place, not since
that night in Puerto Rico in 1977 following a loss to Jimmy
Young. That was the night he found God, experiencing a
hallucination that remains vivid to this day. "I smelled death,"
Foreman says, "a horrible smell. And you never get over it. To
this day, if I were to get into a ring, I'd smell it."
But by 1986 he was broke, his bank accounts mysteriously
shrinking, oil wells disappearing entirely. "Dumb athlete," he
says of his fiscal vulnerability. "So I said, I know how to make
money, and for the first time in 10 years, I balled my fists."
It was a tremendous disappointment to him, to be forced back into
the ring. It was not the lark it seemed to the rest of us at the
time, but a desperate maneuver. Those 10 years after he
discovered God and Houston's burgeoning fast-food outlets had
been the happiest of his life. He preached three days a week,
cruised Westheimer Boulevard in an old Ford Fiesta, consumed
cheeseburgers and fried fish sandwiches in enormous quantities.
"Ten years of the good life," he says, sighing. "I wouldn't trade
that in for anything."
The comeback, at his age and size, was greeted as a joke, and
Foreman was obliged to play along. In fact, he hated the idea of
taking his shirt off in public, such was his residual vanity. But
he could not fight profitably in a muumuu, so he braved the
ridicule and, in an economic inspiration, incorporated his
limitations and appetites into his new public persona. Taking a
page from the great promoter Doc Kearns, Foreman became agreeable
to a fault, mounting a grassroots campaign--fighting for $2,500
in Springfield, Mo.--and working the media tirelessly. Once, the
night before a big fight, he appeared in the pressroom to see if
he could help with any last-minute column angles. The writers,
horrified at this kind of availability, told him to go back to
In the process this onetime bully somehow morphed into a cartoon
figure in the eyes of the public and was selling out arenas for
nothing fights. Arum, remembering how he "despised the guy" at
one time, was reluctant to do business with him. But when Foreman
came knocking, asking for an otherwise unfillable Christmas date
in '87, Arum agreed, to the tune of $12,500. "We figured we'd
draw 200," Arum says, "300 tops. We packed in 2,000. He couldn't
have done more publicity. I still think he's conning me, but it's
On the bandwagon for good, Arum cut Foreman a check for $12.5
million to fight Evander Holyfield in 1991. The comeback was
working, you might say. And Foreman was quick to seize on all the
possibilities, even those ancillary to boxing--picking up
endorsements with KFC and Doritos, joining the broadcast booth at
HBO Boxing. He had an inkling (more than that, actually) that he
was building a brand, that paydays beyond boxing lurked somewhere
in his future.
So it was that Dreimann and Foreman found themselves in Las
Vegas, hawking a strange grill that supposedly drained the fat
right off. Dreimann had no particular expectations for either the
grill--named the Lean, Mean, Fat Reducing Grilling Machine and a
decided dud at the previous year's show--or Foreman, whoever he
was. So that it wouldn't be totally embarrassing, Dreimann lured
potential buyers to a preshow cocktail party by promising them
tickets to Siegfried & Roy.
"It was supposed to last about an hour, then everybody would go
off and see the show," says Dreimann, "but about 200 people
converged on him, hugging him, shaking his hand. I had to put him
behind a table for security reasons. It went for 3 1/2 hours like
that, and finally I had some assistants go out on the street,
looking for kids who might want Siegfried & Roy tickets. We gave
them all away."
The next day produced a similar pandemonium and a new revelation.
When the crush of autograph seekers became too great, Dreimann
hustled Foreman to an upstairs booth. From there Foreman noticed
a woman holding a photo of him, and she seemed upset, maybe in
tears. Foreman demanded that she be brought up to him. He signed
Even so, Dreimann didn't really have a handle on his celebrity
endorser. He had agreed to a deal, which seems preposterous in
hindsight, to make Foreman a partner, not just a pitchman.
Foreman would get a 45% split, to Salton's 40% (Perlmutter and
another partner got the rest), which was no worry to Dreimann.
Forty-five percent of nothing is what he figured. Even with
infomercials featuring footage of Foreman knocking out Moorer,
not to mention the magical fat-draining properties of the grill,
the machine sat on the shelves for the next 18 months.
But Dreimann had underestimated, and misunderstood, Foreman's
corpulent charm. On the advice of a friend at Macy's, who told
him women buyers were not especially motivated to buy kitchen
aids by the salesman's punching power, Dreimann removed the
boxing footage and replaced it with hastily shot film of Foreman,
pared down to his humanity now, grilling with his sons. "It took
us 30 minutes to get that 30 seconds," Dreimann says, "and
overnight sales went berserk."
Foreman was a born salesman, so enthusiastic. In fact, he'd
always been awed by others' ability to sell products people
didn't need or even want. When he was a boy in that little
shotgun house in Houston's tough Fifth Ward, a house with few
furnishings and no carpets, a vacuum-cleaner salesman once
materialized at the door, dressed in a tie and jacket and armed
with patter. In a spasm of entertainment that has Foreman rapt in
memory, the man proceeded to drive George's mother even deeper
into debt with this wonderful and, for her, entirely useless
appliance. For months, to their mother's utter shame, George and
his three brothers marched through the house playing the
vacuum-cleaner tubes like trombones.
He would do anything, travel anywhere to sell the grill, which,
after all, was 45% his. But it was his natural good humor--a
quality that to this day baffles anybody who knew him before his
first retirement--that ended up selling the grill. Once, doing a
sell on QVC, the host was going on and on about the grill, to no
apparent effect, when Foreman absentmindedly picked up a cooking
cheeseburger and ate it. "They have red lights in the studio,"
says Dreimann, "so that if the phones really start ringing, all
available personnel will report to handle calls." Nobody knew
what had happened that day until they went back to look at the
tapes and discovered that Foreman, chewing away, had in his own
hunger triggered an explosion of calls.
Neither Foreman nor Dreimann had to guess whether any of this was
finally working. Foreman, who had hoped to make a million dollars
out of this enterprise, was getting monthly partnership checks of
$5,000, $10,000, then $100,000. In 1997, the week of his bout
with Shannon Briggs, which turned out to be his last fight, his
attorney came to his room in Atlantic City with an oversized
check for more than $1 million, that month's payment. Foreman
lost that fight by decision (a bad one, most agree) but could not
be coaxed into complaint. In the ring afterward he patted fellow
HBO analyst Larry Merchant on the top of the head and, smiling,
advised him to buy a George Foreman Lean, Mean Grilling Machine.
"No home should be without this thing," he told the audience. "Go
In 1999, when the checks began to approach $4 million a month and
Dreimann felt the product might be plateauing, Salton offered to
purchase Foreman's name, effectively buying him out of the
partnership, for $137.5 million. It was a dizzying offer--among
athletes, perhaps only Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have made
larger endorsement deals--but Foreman was reluctant to take it.
He liked pitching the grill too much, and he wasn't fighting
anyway. (Unbeknownst to him, he had retired, his career left
behind more than a year earlier when his wife, Joan, and his
attorney decided to keep him so busy that he wouldn't have time
to train or fight.)
In the end Foreman took the money, and Dreimann, who says the
company has sold some 50 million grills, kept him in the
advertising-goodwill fold. Dreimann routinely jets Foreman off to
South America or England to kick off a campaign in less saturated
markets. Foreman gets paid for these jaunts but does them mostly
out of possessiveness. These are, after all, George Foreman
Grills, as iconic an appliance as has ever been invented. Really,
outside of the Franklin stove, is there any product so singly
identified by celebrity? Plus, it drains the fat.
Foreman had been rich and famous before but had not been very good
at it. He had been, by his own admission, entirely ignorant.
Obnoxious, actually. Following the example of his old stablemate
Sonny Liston, he rarely signed autographs. Liston would sign two
or three, tops. That's good for me, too, decided Foreman. What he
didn't know was that Liston was illiterate and that those two or
three autographs represented more effort than a full-blown
card-signing show for most celebrities. Poor Sonny was drawing
his name. But Liston was Foreman's only available mentor at the
time and so supplied him with all his cues for public surliness.
Foreman instructed reporters to be brief and not repeat their
questions--the heavyweight king's time was valuable. Once, when
New York Times columnist Red Smith started to address him at a
press conference, Foreman cut him off, saying, "I'll tell you
when to ask a question."
Being newly rich was easily as problematic. Once, in his prime,
Foreman admired a Cadillac owned by the football player Hewritt
Dixon. "One day, when you're champ," Dixon told him, "you'll have
a fleet of Cadillacs." Upon becoming the champion, Foreman
dutifully assembled a fleet of Caddies. Another time, well on his
way to riches, he was asked if he owned a Rolls. "I had to find
out what a Rolls was," Foreman says, "then I had to get me one."
It was hard work, being rich and young. And it could be
mortifying, too. He heard about a line of German shepherds,
champions, and he became determined to have one. It would cost
him $21,000. For a dog! He bought the wonderful beast and watched
one day as it toppled his garbage cans and rooted through the
mess for food scraps. It seemed his money had a way of mocking
him. "How would you like to circle the Jack in the Box three
times in a Rolls?" he asks.
But what got really embarrassing was when, following his first
retirement, he simply no longer had enough money. He had what he
needed to live, to cruise fast-food joints, to support his
300-acre ranch (and keep the dog in kibble) but not enough to
renovate or air-condition his sheet-metal church or expand his
youth center down the street. A speaking engagement at a Georgia
revival, meant to raise money for his church back home, was
humiliating; the minister looked at the collection plate and,
embarrassed for Foreman, sent it back again. "We can do better
than this," the preacher said. "Let's help this man."
Richer and even more famous this time around, Foreman is also
wiser, if only a little less profligate. He admits to his obvious
excess and is even apologetic. As he conducts tours of the new
construction on his land outside Houston, he reminds his visitors
that the old house was grand enough for his needs, with the
exception of an outdoor koi pond. It was Joan's idea--she is his
fifth wife but has been with him more than 20 years and is the
source of anything resembling common sense in his life--that
their afternoons of ritual harangue by the koi pond might be more
comfortable in an air-conditioned atrium.
Still, the new spread is no more lavish than the typical
executive-made-good move-up home--and certainly modest given
Foreman's $50 million in purses during his second boxing career,
plus his endorsement bonanzas--even when you take into account
the sanctuary-gym-kitchen he is building for those occasions when
discussions around the koi pond, no matter how air-conditioned,
get too heated.
The one extravagance you might notice is the vast garage to the
side, where those 28 cars of various vintages and pedigrees--VW
Bugs parked alongside Porsches, Corvettes, Lamborghinis and old
muscle cars--are stacked in an immaculate expanse. A couple of
assistants, large and cheerful guys on vague but apparently
constant duty who carry looped ties in their pockets for when
their employer appears, assure you this is just the half of it.
An annex somewhere else in Houston holds Foreman's trucks and
buses. "You know," says one of the assistants, "in case the
family wants to take a trip."
Only Foreman knows what he has and what he gives away, but in
each case, it's presumably considerable, more than you could
guess. You sort of stumble across his charity: A call to a friend
of his whose wife underwent cancer treatment reveals that the
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston was the surprised
beneficiary of a $1,000,007 check in 1994 (the center had treated
an indigent cousin of Foreman's sometime before) with the
explanation that "anyone can donate a million." There are
probably other examples. In any case Foreman is not particularly
troubled by his conflicting roles as mogul and preacher, no
better illustrated than when he travels back and forth to church
in his V-12 BMW. Asked if he's familiar with Jesus' teaching
about the camel and the ... he stops you short, laughing. "I'm a
very fat camel," he says, but he's so greased with good intention
that he would easily slip through the eye of the tiniest needle.
What concerns him--and everybody who takes the time to puzzle
over this phenomenon of serial reincarnation--is the
reconciliation of this gentle, smiling creature with the
grimacing predator who made so many lives so miserable for so
long. Do people really change?
Most don't, but the freakish example of somebody who changed this
much has got to be an example worth representing, at least to
those people (which would be most people) who are mired in their
own stagnation of spirit. If Foreman is truly sincere, then how
did he do it?
Well, he has always been alert to the force of change,
susceptible to dreams, visions, revelations and just the right
word at the right time. Also, there was the matter of divine
mandate. There is no explanation for a boy, asleep in a shotgun
house in Houston where whatever food was on the table was nursed
to the point of fetishism, who would dream of a car so long that
he'd awaken in a sweat, worried that he couldn't steer it around
corners. Or who, training in a gym where other boys assured him
he "could get enough money out of boxing to get into the trucking
business," promised them instead that he'd be champ.
The epiphanies were unrelenting but advanced him only piecemeal.
Here's the one that marked the last mugging he would commit, an
anecdote that in this preacher's remembrance sounds curiously
like a ready-made parable but, in its detail, smacks of the real
As the strong guy in the ward's most effective mugging crew,
Foreman had just accomplished a profitable takedown, and the gang
was on its way to spend the spoils on wine when the sirens
sounded. Perhaps it was just muggers' lore, but Foreman believed
that Houston police traveled through the summer humidity with
German shepherds in the backseat, sleeping on cakes of ice, until
it was time to pursue, and eat, a mugger.
The young Foreman crawled under a house and worried that a
carnivore even more vicious than himself would soon sniff him
out. He knew his only chance (parable alert!) was to somehow
either cross a body of water or be doused by one, thereby
drowning his scent. He found a muddy pool of raw sewage from a
burst pipe and rubbed it all over himself. "Stinky and ashamed, I
wandered home, telling myself, I'm no thief, I'm not a bandit.
And I never stole again."
Baptism by effluence advanced him from the criminal ranks but
did not make him that nice a guy. "Oh, I was a dangerous fella,
all right," Foreman says. "It wasn't no act. If some wealthy guy
drove by in a limo and gave me a finger, I'd find him." Further
refinements in character came sporadically: A public service
announcement by Jim Brown lured Foreman into the Job Corps,
which led him to trainer Doc Broadus, who led him to the
Olympics, which deposited him on America's doorstep, which led
to the heavyweight championship of the world, which led to
humiliation in Zaire, which eventually led to his ministry ...
and so on.
But was he ever really changed? Or did he only acquire better
clothes and manners? Is this new life of his just the same kind
of marketing campaign that allowed a novelty act to become
champion again, rich again?
"If it's an act," suggests HBO colleague Merchant, who watched
Foreman in his thuggish first career and then has sat beside him
during his gentler reformation, "then it's a damn good act."
Merchant, like everybody else in boxing, was skeptical of the new
Foreman but has come to respect his self-improvement as genuine.
Not necessarily organic, because Merchant still sees flashes of
anger from the big fellow, but willfully obtained, as the man
determinedly followed a manual for higher purpose. Watching
Foreman tamp down his worst instincts, as he only partially does
in some broadcasts, is all the more impressive. Perhaps it's all
as forced as his smile, which only means his goodness is
deliberate, not accidental at all.
Fellow broadcaster Jim Lampley has had isolated problems with
Foreman too. "He's not a bully, physically," Lampley says. "There
are unusual elements in dealing with him. I have no way of
knowing what I'm going to get from George." But Lampley, too,
observes the effort Foreman makes to achieve a higher level of
humanity. After one blowup--which is not the norm, by the way, in
the HBO dynamic--Foreman gave Lampley a watch (Foreman collects
vintage watches with the same passion as automobiles) and
returned with a reinforced camaraderie.
But Foreman is not really of their world, anyway (and may become
less of it; Foreman says he will have a reduced role under terms
of his next HBO contract, which begins next year). When he is on
the road on assignment, he usually disappears into the company of
one of his five sons, who comes along as a traveling secretary.
Lampley has shared only one breakfast with Foreman in all their
years as colleagues. Nor does Foreman enjoy the traditional
duties of research--he once asked Lampley on-air how to pronounce
a fighter's name--and instead relies on a quirky spontaneity that
is either charming or maddening. In HBO's upper ranks they say
"that's George being George," and it usually makes for good
Foreman has a higher calling, and it's not just to service to his
church (which required him to fly red-eyes on Saturday nights
after fights to make the first service, until he bought his own
jet). Wherever he goes, people reach out to him, as if in his
congenial hulk he is the last goodness you can actually touch. He
signs every autograph, poses for every picture, hugs every old
Sometimes more is required. At a recent fight in Connecticut he
was told about a man whose dying wish was to meet him. Do you say
no, so you can get together with a colleague? Much more
frustrating: Recently a note was dropped in the mailbox at his
church requesting help with a young man's tuition. When Foreman
finally got the message--how long had it sat in that
mailbox?--the young man had been arrested and sent to jail. "I
get to a lot," he says, "but nothing bothers you like the one you
But even that's not what keeps him awake nights. (He schedules
all appointments past noon.) Those are just opportunities, one or
another of them missed, maybe, but most satisfied. It's the life
of atonement required for past brutalities, none of which can
really be redressed.
All those women! "Once a girlfriend was watching one of my
fights," he says, sadly, "and when I punched a guy in the face,
she said, 'You were thinking of me, weren't you?'" So much
And all those voices late at night. "You know what it's like to
mug somebody?" he asks. "To get him down, like he's so much
trash? And you know he feels like trash. And he's
yelling"--Foreman actually whispers it, though--"'Hey, hey,
hey.'" The refrain of submission, surprise, even self-hatred that
accompanied each awful victimization, every one performed with
carefree cruelty. He hears them all, and there were plenty.
Late at night he allows the voices to rattle around in his head,
because you can't--and, as he well knows, you shouldn't--be
forgiven. He plots new schemes, a follow-up to the grill, perhaps
this calorie-counter idea he's been toying with. He calls friends
in a fake voice, a surprising imitation of Kingfish, the Amos 'n'
Andy character. He taps out e-mails. To a friend whose son has
gotten in some trouble, he writes, "How is everyone?" His
innocuousness sheathes the arrow that always hits its mark; the
friend knows the concern was specific, attuned to his sorrow.
Not long ago Foreman had agreed to minister at the wedding of the
daughter of a longtime friend, Bill Caplan, a p.r. man who earned
his loyalty a long, long time ago. Caplan once told Foreman after
an amateur loss not to worry, he'd win some fights. Because
Caplan was wearing a tux at the time, being the ring announcer,
Foreman assumed in his tremendous naivete that he was the owner
of the building and knew what he was talking about. He was
mightily encouraged. Anyway, the wedding: When the date was set,
Foreman e-mailed Caplan that it unfortunately conflicted with a
speaking engagement in Florida for the Hilton corporation, which
was going to pay $50,000.
But that (imagine the Internet voice of Kingfish here) he would
Late at night he sends these e-mails, and many more like them,
each one of them the barest compensation for a life lived
imperfectly, like any life, of course. He just taps them out,
into the wee Texas hours. And coast to coast, the people sleep
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK
B/W PHOTO: AP OLD GLORY DAYS Foreman waved the flag after winning a gold medal at the '68 Summer Olympics.
B/W PHOTO: TONY TRIOLO GAME FACE In his prime (here in '74, in Zaire), Foreman's signature was a scowl, not a smile.
B/W PHOTO: LANE STEWART PRIME MINISTER Foreman (at his Houston church) preached during his hiatus from boxing.
B/W PHOTO: BRIAN LANKER SPARE TIRES Before returning to the ring, Foreman showed he was built for comfort, not for speed.
He got rich and famous off his FINE-TUNED CRUELTY and, among
other things, bought a dog for $21,000.
"I was a dangerous fella," he says. "It wasn't no act. If some
wealthy guy in a limo gave me the finger, I'D FIND HIM."
Those 10 years after he discovered God and Houston's burgeoning
fast-food outlets had been THE HAPPIEST OF HIS LIFE.
By Foreman's example, serial self-improvement is not only
possible but apparently INESCAPABLE.
He has emerged from the rubble of his past as an ICON OF
KINDNESS--still rewarded beyond all get-out, mind you.
All seven SI covers featuring George Foreman, dating back to June
18, 1973, at si.com/covers.