The Oldest Champion In History

Are you starting to feel old? Does it sometimes seem like all your best and most impressive accomplishments were in your past? Are you beginning to believe your future is never going to be better than it is right now?

Today’s article might just shatter those beliefs forever.

On November 5, 1994, five days before his 46th birthday, George Foreman stepped into the ring in an attempt to regain the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World. He wanted to prove that “there’s no death sentence at age 40 or even 50.”

But he had a hell of a long ways to go before he was champion.

A Championship Won…and Lost

At 19 years old, an amateur Foreman had beaten the Russian champion Jonas Čepulis to take the 1968 Heavyweight Olympic Gold Medal. From there he was told that by turning pro he could make thousands upon thousands of dollars. Foreman said no. “You can make hundreds of thousands,” his promoters told him. Foreman still refused. Undaunted, they said “Big George, with your skill, and your stubbornness, you could make millions of dollars!”

This time Foreman accepted the offer.

For the next 15 years Foreman fought professionally and absolutely destroyed the competition. He won forty fights in a row without a single loss. In 1971 he won a decision against Gregorio Peralta to take the World NABF title. A year later he knocked out Miguel Angel Paez in the second round and added the Pan American heavyweight title to his list of accomplishments.

But that wasn’t enough. Unsatisfied with anythless less than the best, Foreman set his sights on the World Heavyweight Title and in 1973 he got his chance. On January 22 in Kingston, Jamaica, Foreman went up against the World Champion, Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Big George knocked Frazier down six times in two rounds before the fight was called.

Foreman had done it. He was now in possession of the WBA, WBC, The Ring and lineal heavyweight titles. He was the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.

But the problem with being on top is that there’s only one way you can go from there:

Down.

A Broken Ego

Foreman remained champion for 18 months until he was dismantled in the now-legendary performance of the superstar Muhammad Ali in “Rumble in the Jungle.” Big George was shocked at his loss. Since the beginning of his career, Foreman had always gone into every fight with a sense of fear and a desire to prove himself. But with Ali he had been overconfident. He felt sure he was going to win.

“In boxing, I had a lot of fear,” Foreman recalls. “Fear was good. But, for the first time, in the bout with Muhammad Ali, I didn’t have any fear. I thought, ‘This is easy. This is what I’ve been waiting for’. No fear at all. No nervousness.”

And he lost.

After such a spectacular defeat, Foreman wasn’t the same. He didn’t fight again for almost 18 months and when he came back he was missing something. He won his next five fights, but the competitors – with the exception of a rematch with Joe Frazier – were weak and without titles. When Foreman lost his next match against Jimmy Young on March 17, 1977, something inside him broke.

In the locker room after the Young fight, Foreman, suffering from exhaustion and heat-stroke, had what he called “a near-death experience.” He believed God started talking to him and asked him to become a believer. At that point Foreman was a multi-millionaire and he responded by offering God money, saying “If you let me live I’ll give my money to you.” The heavenly voice refused the request, telling Foreman, “I don’t want your money. I want you.”

George Foreman, beaten, broken and at his wit’s end, gave up. Foreman told God that if he lived he would become a Christian. He would help people. He would become a reverend. And he would stop fighting.

When he survived that night and woke up the next day, Foreman stayed true to his word. Over the next ten years he became a pastor at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston, Texas. He built the George Foreman Youth and Community Center and taught sports to troubled teens. He put his down his boxing gloves and didn’t step inside the ring for the next ten years.

During those years Foreman learned about patience and peace and love. He connected to his family. He rebuilt his community. When parents brought their teens to him to teach them how to fight, Big George would counsel them about how to live without violence, about working hard and about being something more than just a thug with two fists.

But after a decade without fighting, Foreman could feel something missing. Something great was inside him that couldn’t be denied. A hunger that couldn’t be satiated. The need was in his soul and he couldn’t ignore it any longer.

In 1987, at 38 years of age, George Foreman returned to the ring to fight once again.

Rebuilding a Legacy

This time Foreman was in it for the money and the glory. During his time away from the ring Foreman had used up almost all of his initial winnings, due in a large part to the costs of constructing the youth center. Now his goal was to generate capital to upgrade the center as well as providing for the future of his twelve children.

But most of all? He wanted to prove he still had what it took to win.

He started again at the bottom, working his way up the ladder and fighting anyone he could. Surprisingly, Foreman’s skill seemed to have improved with age. His punching style was as hard as any boxer in history and his conditioning – once considered the major flaw in his technique – had been completely revamped so he could now comfortably fight all the way until the twelfth round.

Once again his record was flawless. Foreman beat every opponent for the next four years, including the previous Light Heavyweight Champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi. He also secured a major psychological advantage by beating Gerry Cooney, the man who had knocked out Foreman’s previous arch-enemy Jimmy Young.

Then in 1991 Foreman went up against the undefeated Heavyweight Champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield. At this point the 42-year old Foreman was popular from various television commercials and was well loved in the boxing community but no serious analyst believed he had a chance. Although Foreman lost the fight, he gained significant credibility by lasting all twelve rounds against the champion Holyfield.

In 1993 Foreman lost for the second time to the young Tommy Morrison but Foreman’s momentum had grown enough to make him a genuine contender against any boxer on the planet.

During the same period, Michael Moorer, the previous Light Heavyweight Champion, had just beaten Evander Holyfield and now held the IBF and WBA titles. This meant that if Foreman could convince Moorer to fight he would have a chance to accomplish his dream. He could potentially become the World Heavyweight Champion again.

But how could Big George possibly win?

The Match That Never Should Have Happened

When Foreman challenged Moorer, the younger man initially dismissed the idea. From his perspective Foreman was trying desperately to hold onto his dying career. But the more he thought about the fight it actually started to make a lot of sense. Moorer was 19 years younger with a perfect record and the Championship belt around his waist. Foreman was an old man so he could be easily beaten. In case there was any doubt, Moorer had beaten Holyfield and Holyfield had taken down Foreman.

In addition to being old and an obvious win, Foreman was highly popular and could guarantee a big payday when Moorer won the match.

Moorer accepted.

The fight would be held November 5, 1994, at Caesar’s Palace in Nevada. George Foreman would have his chance to try and prove, once and for all, that “being 40 isn’t dead.”

Assuming he didn’t die in the process.

The Fight

On the night of the great battle, fans packed the sold-out auditorium at Caesar’s Palace. Everyone wanted to see which was more dangerous, Youth or Experience, Confidence or Cunning, Speed or Strength.

Michael Moorer was 26 years old. George Foreman was five days from his 46th birthday. Moorer had just beaten Holyfield and had a perfect 35-0 record. Foreman had recently lost to both Holyfield and Morrison.

No fighter had ever beaten someone 19 years younger for a world championship. No fighter had ever come back and won a world championship after 17 years. And nobody had won a world championship at the age of 45.

But George Foreman had a vision. In his book Knockout Entrepreneur, he explains it like this:

“The world is full of people who want to play it safe, people who have tremendous potential but never use it. Somewhere deep inside them, they know that they could do more in life, be more, and have more — if only they were willing to take a few risks.”

Foreman was ready to take the biggest risk of his career. But would it pay off? Or would he be permanently damaged?

The Ultimate Gamble

Immediately the younger man took the lead. Although the two heavyweights traded crushing blows, Moorer hit hard and backed away while Foreman absorbed the blows and kept looking for an opening that wasn’t there.

As time went on it became obvious that Foreman was losing the fight. The champion kept hitting him harder and harder and soon the older man’s left eye was nearly swollen shut. He looked dazed and unstable. Things looked grim.

After nine rounds the judges unanimously agreed that Moorer was too far in the lead for Foreman to catch up on points. Unless the Big George did something quickly he wouldn’t have a chance.

When the bell rang at the end of the 9th round, Muhammad Ali’s legendary trainer Angelo Dundee leaned in close to Foreman. “You need a knockout,” Dundee said, “and this is the time to do it.”

Shaking off his fog, Foreman charged back into the ring and Moorer hit him again. And again. And again. The pan felt like a wrecking ball to his skull. He could barely see. His whole body ached. He threw a quick combination to the other man’s body. He got hit again and prayed for the opening he so desperately needed.

Suddenly there it was. Moorer had dropped his left hand after a jab. The right side of his face was unguarded.

Vulnerable.

Foreman threw the punch with every ounce of strength he had left. A split second later his right cross smashed into Moorer’s jaw. The hit was so fast and so hard it split the champion’s mouthpiece and cut his lip. After several long seconds, Moorer was stunned to realize he was lying on his back on the canvas. Somewhere far away he could hear the referee counting.

“FOUR….” “FIVE….”

It was impossible. Moorer waved his arms, thrust his body forward and tried to get up. He couldn’t be beaten by an old man.

“SEVEN….” “EIGHT….”

The young champion struggled and finally yanked himself onto to his knees and then he heard the referee yelling.

“TEN! That’s it you’re out!”

It was over.

Big George had done it. He had accomplished what no one in history has done before or since: Five days from his 46th birthday, George Foreman became the oldest World Heavyweight Champion in the world.

“If you want it, leave your excuses behind and come and get it.”

~ George Foreman

Stay Superior!


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Jathan
Jathan is passionate about helping create a community of great men. He enjoys beautiful women, altered states and Monty Python jokes. He lives in San Diego with two cats and a lot of books. Email him anytime at [email protected]

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