Boxing legend George Foreman opened up about his near-death experience that changed his life forever by leading him to Jesus Christ. The former heavyweight champ shared a profound message everyone needs to hear.
George Foreman is one of the most celebrated boxers in American history. The Texas native skyrocketed to fame in 1968 when he won the Gold Medal in the boxing heavyweight division at the Mexico Summer Olympics. In 1972, Foreman became the heavyweight champion of the world by defeating Joe Frazier.
By 1977, however, everything changed when Foreman retired from boxing after a near-death experience brought him to the Lord. He recalled how, in his dressing room in Puerto Rico, he understood the truth of the Gospel for the first time. “I was dead. There was nothing left of me,” he recalled. “I stared at nothingness, no hope. I was pulled out of this dirty place, and given a second chance to live. That has kept me grounded.”
With the release of his biographical film Big George Foreman, the heavyweight boxer-turned-pastor is reflecting on God’s faithfulness throughout his storied life and sharing wisdom with the next generation of believers. “You come to a point in your life and you realize the only important thing in your life is [to be] an evangelist,” the 74-year-old told The Christian Post.
“‘Evangelistic’ is the word that has been so powerful to me in my life. If something happened to me tomorrow … I know I’ve done a good job, and I’m happy about that, trying to spell out to the world, ‘Jesus Christ has come alive in me.’” But Foreman’s path to a successful boxing career — and eventually, the ministry — has been anything but easy.
Born in 1949 in Marshall, Texas, Foreman was one of seven children and had a problematic childhood defined by instability, violence, and poverty. After dropping out of school in the 10th grade, Foreman began abusing alcohol and engaging in violent crime on the streets of Houston’s Fifth Ward.
In 1965, he left Houston for the Job Corps in California, a program developed to help disadvantaged youth by teaching them vocational job skills. It was there that Doc Broaddus, who was a Job Corps counselor and a boxing coach, encouraged Foreman to channel his anger through boxing. However, after that near-death experience, Foreman was determined to spend the rest of his life sharing the Gospel.
Foreman became a minister and founded The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1980. However, financial hardships compelled the former champ to step back into the ring. In 1994, he became the oldest fighter to ever hold the heavyweight championship at 45, after he bested reigning champion Michael Moore in the 10th round.
Foreman documented his remarkable story in his 2000 book By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman which has been made into a major motion picture. Foreman said that he wanted God’s faithfulness throughout his life to serve as a focal point of the film. “So many people helped me in life,” he shared. “I didn’t know that. I thought I was doing so much … but there are so many good people in my life.”
Even in the most turbulent times in his life, George Foreman said he knew God was present, but he had to undergo a series of difficulties before realizing just how desperate he was for a Savior. He credited his mother’s prayers with keeping him alive as a youth when he should have died. “In hindsight, [God’s faithfulness] was all over my life, period,” he reflected. “There I was, a thief, on my way to jail, underneath a house, hiding from the police, covering myself from head to toe with slop.”
Foreman said he is grateful for his success but firmly believes in the power of living life in light of eternity. He shared that Psalm 1:1 guides his life: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” He added, “It doesn’t matter what you achieve, what you accomplish in this life. The most important thing is to keep your eye on the true prize, and that’s serving God. Find God, have faith in God. It doesn’t matter what happened, believe all things are possible. Don’t ever give up on possibility and your life can be turned and changed for the better.”