In the sports biographical drama film ‘Big George Foreman,’ we follow the inspiring journey of a young man as he turns his life around from a hot-headed, financially struggling teenager to a world-renowned boxer. The film revolves around George’s rise to fame as he wins a gold medal at the Olympics and earns the World Heavyweight Champion early in his career. However, shortly after the ring dealt him the most significant loss of his career in a fight against Muhammad Ali, Foreman has a religious epiphany.
As a result, George exits from the boxing world to pursue his newfound unwavering faith in god. His sudden change of heart invites natural curiosity and likely leaves the viewers with some questions. What brought about this drastic revelation, and how has it changed real-life George Foreman’s life? Let’s find out!
Why Did George Foreman Become a Preacher?
As depicted in the film, George Foreman grew up in a financially unstable home with numerous siblings and a single mother working three jobs to sustain her family. As such, even though Foreman’s mother, Nancy, was a believer, she could never make time for Church. Nonetheless, Foreman and his siblings sometimes attended Church at his sister’s encouragement. Yet George, in his youth, only humored those instances for the promise of a free lunch.
As such, despite his somewhat religious upbringing, Foreman spent most of his early life without God. “I used to believe in my big fists. I’d get these knockouts. I thought I could beat the whole world,” said Foreman in an interview with Sports Spectrum.
“Come to find out, there was something that could beat me, and that was death itself,” Foreman continued, expanding on his journey with Christianity. “God saved me and gave me another chance to live. And that faith in god has kept me all those years, keeping me on the right road. I couldn’t do anything without god. I know that now.”
The near-death experience Foreman referenced above came in Puerto Rico on March 17, 1977. Foreman entered the ring with Jimmy Young with a 5-0 record following his big loss to Muhammad Ali. The previous fight had left the boxer out of the audience’s loud favor and intensely affected his self-esteem. Therefore, when Foreman lost the match to Young, as well it had a grave and instantaneous effect on his health.
Foreman spiraled out of control in the dressing room after the match and fought for his life in a panic. Later, the boxer would define his headspace as “the saddest, most horrible place” he had ever seen. Eventually, guided by a “giant hand,” Foreman found himself back to reality. “I knew that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me,” Foreman said, recalling his traumatic experience.
The film puts this instance in Foreman’s life after an intense sequence revolving around Foreman’s sister, Mary, and the complications she undergoes during birth. During the experience, George, who is previously flippant toward religion in the story, turns to God and begs for his aid. Therefore, the film puts God’s influence over Foreman as a life-saving force into a stark highlight. Foreman lived a big chunk of his life dominated by his anger over the way the world treated him. Nevertheless, in a moment of absolute vulnerability, the boxer saw the grace of God and decided to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ by becoming a preacher.
Foreman got ordained as a minister in 1978, finding The Church of The Lord Jesus Christ in Houston two years later, and has been preaching since. These days, the two-time World Heavyweight Champion and the oldest man to win that title still devotes his time to Christ and his teachings. “I’m always looking for sermons— something to inspire people. Something to tell people about life so that they can be inspired to get up! When you get knocked down, get up and believe in god, and you can the rest of the way,” said Foreman.
The boxer also divulged the sincere reason behind his involvement in director George Tillman Jr.’s ‘Big George Foreman.’ “I never would have had an interest in doing a movie whatsoever had it not been for my meeting with Jesus Christ. I wanted to express that because I was a lost man, and I was found. And [with] this movie, [I] get a chance to tell the whole world about what happened to me. But that’s what it’s all about for me. I had no interest in ever being part of a movie until then,” said Foreman. In doing so, he emphasized the impact his near-death experience had in setting him on a course of preacher hood for life.