Madam Speaker, Today I am proud to recognize one of boxings most feared fighters, Mr. George Foreman. We are near the same age, and I have been a fan since I was a kid.
A product of a less fortunate family, Houstonian George Foreman was in constant trouble with the law. He vowed to make a better life for himself and later joined the Job Corp. While stationed in Oregon, Foreman became infamous for picking fights with fellow trainees. It was then that his fighting skills were noticed and he was introduced to the sport of boxing, which he grew to love. Foreman got his start as an amateur from the AAU in San Francisco.
At the age of 19, Foreman won a gold medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. He won his first fight on points and then three fights by stoppage including the final title bout against the favored Soviet fighter. After winning the gold, Foreman walked around the ring, holding high a small American flag following his victory. Members of the black community chastised him for his display; others, however, lauded him for being a patriotic American during a time of political upheaval and strife. Madam Speaker, this was the most patriotic moment I had ever seen.
Foreman, after an amazing amateur record of 27-0, turned professional in 1969 with a three-round knockout of Donald Walheim in New York. He had 12 fights that year, winning all of them, 11 by knockout. Among the fighters he defeated was Cookie Wallace, who lasted only 23 seconds.
In 1970, Foreman continued his journey toward the undisputed heavyweight title. In 1971, he won seven more fights. After amassing a record of 32-0, Foreman ranked as the number one challenger by the World Boxing Association and Council. In 1972, his string of wins continued with a series of five consecutive bouts in which he defeated each opponent within three rounds.
Still undefeated, and with an impressive knockout record, Foreman was set to challenge undefeated and undisputed world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. Foreman knocked down Frazier six times in two rounds to win the championship by knockout in one of boxing's biggest upsets. In what was HBO Boxing's first broadcast, the call made by Howard Cosell became one of the most memorable in all of sports: "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!" Before the fight, Frazier was 29-0, with 25 knockouts, and Foreman was 37-0, with 34 knockouts. Equally memorable was Foreman's final punch, an uppercut, landed with such force that it lifted Frazier off his feet before sending him to the canvas for the sixth and final time. As he had done following the previous knockdowns, Frazier managed to get to his feet, but the referee called an end to the bout.
Nevertheless, Foreman went on to defend his title successfully twice during his initial reign as champion. His first defense, in Tokyo, pitted him against Puerto Rican heavyweight champion Jose Roman. Roman was not regarded as a top contender, and it took Foreman only 55 seconds to end the fight, the fastest-ever knockout for a heavyweight championship bout. Foreman's next defense was against a much tougher opponent. In 1974, he faced the highly regarded Ken Norton who was 30-2, a boxer notorious for his awkward boxing style. Norton's ability to "take a punch" was suspect, and Foreman put him to the test. In an astonishing display of aggression and punching power, Foreman knocked out Norton in just two rounds. The win made Foreman 40-0 with 37 knockouts.
After losing his title to Muhammad Ali in 1974, Foreman remained inactive during 1975. In 1976, he returned to boxing in Las Vegas against Ron Lyle. After a very intense and extensive struggle by both fighters, the fight was stopped and Foreman was declared the winner. For his next bout, Foreman chose to face Joe Frazier in a rematch. Frazier at this point was 32-3 and Foreman was 41-1, but people doubted Foremans ability. Unable to mount a significant offense, Frazier was eventually floored twice by Foreman in the fifth round and the fight was stopped. Next, Foreman knocked out Scott Ledoux in three and Dino Dennis in four to finish the year.
Foreman fought five men in one night in a 1975 exhibition. He won five straight knockouts on the comeback trail before being decked and decision-ed by Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico in 1977. Foreman stated that he saw God in his dressing room following the defeat and announced he was going to become a preacher and retire from boxing. He became a born-again Christian, dedicating his life for the next decade to Christianity. Although he did not formally retire from boxing, he did stop fighting, became an ordained minister of a church in Houston, Texas, and devoted himself to his family and his parishioners. He also opened a youth center that bears his name. Foreman continues to share his conversion experience on Christian television broadcasts such as The 700 Club and the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and has joked that Young knocked the devil out of him.
When Foreman decided to return to the ring to raise money for his church; experts laughed, but he racked up 18 straight knockout victories. He was defeated in a title bid by Evander Holyfield. In 1994, Foreman again shocked the world by knocking out undefeated World Heavyweight Champion Micheal Moorer (39-0) to become champion again at age 45.
Shortly after the Moorer fight, Foreman faced mid-level prospect Axel Schulz of Germany in defense of his remaining International Boxing Federation title. Foreman finished the fight with an unsightly swelling over one eye, but was awarded a highly controversial majority decision. The IBF ordered an immediate rematch to be held in Germany, but Foreman refused the terms and found himself stripped of his remaining title.
In 1996, Foreman returned to Tokyo, scoring an easy win over the unrated Crawford Grimsley by a 12-round decision. In 1997, he faced fringe contender Lou Savarese, winning a close decision in a grueling, competitive encounter. Yet another opportunity came Foreman's way as the World Boxing Council decided to match him against Shannon Briggs in a 1998 "eliminator bout" for the right to face World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis. After 12 rounds, there was once again a controversial majority decision, but this time the victory went to Briggs. Foreman had fought for the last time, at the age of 48.
In January 2003, Foreman was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in June. That same year, he was named boxing's ninth greatest puncher of all time by Ring Magazine.
Foreman said he had no plans to resume his career as a boxer, but then announced in February 2004 that he was training for one more comeback fight to demonstrate that the age of 60, like 40, is not a "death sentence." The bout, against an unspecified opponent, never materialized. Having severed his relationship with HBO to pursue other opportunities, George Foreman and the sport of boxing finally went their separate ways.
Life has definitely gone on after boxing for Big George Foreman. In addition to becoming the Heavyweight Campion of the World and an Olympic Medal Winner, Olympic Hall of Famer, he wears the titles of Pastor, nationally recognized spokesperson, entrepreneur, author, reality television star, mentor and role model. He has been the face of Meineke Mufflers, and countless homes in the country have the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine.
In 2004, Foreman began marketing the George Foreman brand of "Big and Tall" clothes through the retailer Casual Male. He has even appeared as a Judge on the second season of the ABC reality television series American Inventor. Foreman has four books: The Autobiography of George Foreman; God in My Corner: A Spiritual Memoir; Going the Extra Smile; and Fatherhood by George: Hard-Won Advice on Being a Dad.
On May 22, 2007, it was announced that Foreman had become a partner in the Panther Racing Indy Car team, in the Indianapolis 500; and on July 16, 2008, TV Land premiered Family Foreman, a reality TV show, starring George and his family.
Big George Foreman continues to be extremely active in the community. He encourages young people through his George Foreman Youth Center in Houston, and he built The George Foreman Youth & Community Center in 1984 with money saved from his eight-year retirement. Foreman wanted to create a haven for kids to hang out.
I am proud to recognize my friend whom I admire greatly, Mr. George Foreman, for his accomplishments in and out of the boxing ring. He has repeatedly shown us all that you can overcome all odds and obstacles. He is a shining testament of hard work and determination, and I applaud all of his accomplishments and service to the community.
And thats just the way it is.