Before building a multi-billion dollar home-grilling empire, boxing legend George Foreman was king of the ring, and his legacy continues to inspire the next generation of fighters.
His Foreman Boys Promotions company is co-promoting Saturday's featherweight championship match between Mikey Garcia and Juan Manual "Juanma" Lopez (10:45 p.m. ET/PT on HBO), and this year he celebrates the 40th anniversary of his first world heavyweight championship win.
In this interview, Foreman reflects with BET.com on finding happiness and fulfillment outside the ring.
BET.com: This year marks the 40th anniversary of your fight with Joe Frazier, where you won your first world heavyweight championship. What about that fight still resonates with you today?
George Foreman: Forty years ago, I became the heavyweight champ of the world. It was such a thrill. What happened was once you became heavyweight champ of the world the first time, it was like a stack. Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, all these people just fell right on you. You almost feel like you’ve been injected with them. And I still carry it around with me right now. I feel like I’m a part of all of those men.
BET.com: Speaking of prize-winning fights, you are co-promoting Saturday's featherweight championship bout between Mikey Garcia and Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez. What advice would you give these fighters this weekend?
GF: The most important thing is to get out there and give it your all. Don’t save something for next year. The fighters who give it all will be around for next year. Give it all you’ve got. Don’t save anything.
BET.com: You wear so many hats, heavyweight championship boxer, businessman, philanthropist. Which one of those areas was the most difficult to attain?
GF: Boxing has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. The biggest challenge in my life. I was a boxer. That was hard. Everything else is pretty easy. I can slide into all of the above pretty easily, but boxing was rough.
BET.com: You have an incredible career as a businessman. What motivated you to break into the world of business the way that you did?
GF: I think that every boxer should understand he’s on the pedestal for a short span. It's best that you use boxing and don't let boxing use you. Use boxing to sell, because people are selling you through your boxing career, so you have to learn to sell yourself and you’ll never starve. It’s not how much money you’ve earned, it’s how much you’re earning.
BET.com: Are there some new projects that you want to share with the world that you’re working on?
GF: I decided rather than grilling, grilling, grilling, we're coming out with a George Foreman food line. The college kids were asking me all the time and telling me to make something for the grill, because they use them in all the universities across the nation.
BET.com: We definitely had at least one George Foreman grill in our college dorm room! This year you were awarded the 2013 Shell Legacy Award for your philanthropic contributions to the community through the George Foreman Youth and Community Center and other charitable efforts. What is the legacy you hope to leave upon your family, friends and the sports world?
GF: It’s very important that people know that I really enjoy everything that has happened to me. And I tell my kids…you’re not going to be the tallest, fastest, prettiest, the best track runner, but you can be the nicest human being that someone has ever met in their life. And I just want to leave that legacy that being nice is a true treasure.
BET.com: What do you miss most about being in the ring, and what don’t you miss?
GF: I don’t miss a thing about not getting in the ring! I did love running, the road work and getting out in the morning with my sparring partners and chatting with them, but I can deal with that. I don’t miss the physical part of boxing. My eyes getting swollen, my nose being reshaped, I can live without that.
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(Photo: Gary Miller/FilmMagic)