George Foreman says boxing’s heavyweights lack ‘personality’

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TV personality George Foreman onstage during the MTV Networks Upfront at the Nokia Theater on May 8, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for MTV Networks)

TV personality George Foreman onstage during the MTV Networks Upfront at the Nokia Theater on May 8, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for MTV Networks)

George Foreman certainly has the gift of gab.

The former two-time heavyweight champ turned boxing promoter loves his sport and wants to see it grow.

Especially the heavyweight division.

“Boxing is made up of personalities,” Foreman told theGrio late last week.  “You can be the best puncher in the world, but if you don’t have a personality, you won’t be able to sell boxing. And that’s what we’ve missed for a few years.”

Foreman helped promote Saturday’s featherweight bout between Mikey Garcia and Juan Manuel Lopez through his Foreman Boys Promotions company. Garcia scored a fourth-round TKO to remain undefeated. Speaking ahead of the fight, which was broadcast on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark,” Foreman was loquacious and very comfortable discussing what Garcia had to do to win.  What was also clear is that his heart  remains rooted in the heavyweights.

“Mike Tyson – didn’t have the personality but he was infamous,” Foreman said of who he considers boxing’s last memorable heavyweight. “[Tyson] he sold boxing […] Everyone was talking about the heavyweight champion when Mike Tyson first came on the scene. We need someone with personality – a Muhammad Ali, a Joe Frazier, Jack Dempsey.”

Foreman said he wasn’t necessarily disappointed in the sport itself because there’s a pool of talented and solid fighters. But it takes more than fighting.

40 years, ago Foreman first experienced what it felt like to be champion of the world. On January 22, 1973, Foreman shocked the world by manhandling the great Joe Frazier. Foreman dropped ‘Smokin’ Joe’ in under five minutes. The bout was HBO’s first boxing event.

“It never goes out of my mind,” Foreman said of the fight. “I was just a regular guy walking down the street people waved, occasionally ask for an autograph. I beat Joe Frazier, I walked down the street and people insisted I get in the car with them. I was an interesting young fellow until I beat Joe Frazier and next thing you know I start hearing girls saying I was handsome. That fight made me that.”

Foreman said the Frazier knockout victory was like an “anointing.” After Muhammad Ali famously defeated Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ less than two years later, Foreman would not regain his belt until 1994 with a similarly stunning knockout of Michael Moorer.

He remains the oldest heavyweight fighter to ever win a world championship. His post-boxing career has been a mix of books, television shows and a whole bunch of George Foreman grills sold. His focus now is his promotions company with his five sons, all named George Foreman.

“Big George,” who is now 64, said Paul Robeson and Jim Brown were his models.

“I really wanted to leave a track record so to speak,” Foreman said. “Something for other boxers to reach out for. Just because you’re the heavyweight champion of the world does not mean you don’t have to continue to grow. And that’s the picture I wanted to paint.”

The Garcia-Lopez fight, which aired Saturday, can be viewed on HBO Go and HBO On Demand.

Follow theGrio’s sports editor Todd Johnson on Twitter @rantoddj