‘Big’ George Foreman says he was beaten fair and square by old friend Muhammad Ali when paying tribute to ‘The Greatest’ on a recent HBO special.
The oldest world heavyweight champion of all time, Foreman lost out to Ali in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974, a defeat that took the 67 year-old years to get over.
Despite the bad blood pre-fight, Foreman and Ali went on to become firm friends, whilst the Texan also pointed out that question marks over the length of the referee’s count in Zaire were simply academic in the end.
“It was the last of the ’70’s, I believe 1978, Muhammad Ali, I do not know how he got my number because he avoided me, he didn’t want to give me a title rematch,” Foreman told Jim Lampley on ‘The Fight Game.’
“He called and complimented me for about 20 minutes then he said ‘George, would you do me a favor’, he knew I liked him, I said, ‘certainly.’ He said, ‘Please come back and beat Ken Norton and fight him for me. They are going to strip me of my title and I can’t beat him George you can. He’s afraid of you. I’ll let you use my training camp and everything but please come back and beat him for me.’
“That day forward we became the best of friends and we starting talking on the telephone. He’d call me, I would try to run him down wherever he be. We had these religious conversations. His children became good friends with my children. That is where the love affair began –right there at the end of the ’70’s.”
On whether he actually beat the count, Foreman added:
“The count was short. My trainer told me to get up. When I got up the fight was over. I thought I beaten the count myself but everybody jumped into the ring I said, ‘It must be over’ and I had no questions about that.
“And you know for good reasons I am glad I didn’t beat the count because he surely would have put it on me then,” he added.
Ali died earlier this year following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and Foreman was one of those asked to be a pallbearer for a fighter and man already much-missed in the boxing world.