George Foreman III’s Boxing Beginnings

Photos via 'The Club By George Forman III's' Facebook account.

There are a multitude of reasons why fighters follow the unconventional career path. For some it was a necessity; a young Thai boy sent to one of the kickboxing camps to earn money for his family so they had enough to eat. For others there was more of a gradual evolution; wrestling in middle school turned into wrestling in high school and college, but after that there was a competitive void in their soul that they needed to fill. Mike Tyson talked about how his first fight was because someone tried to steal his pet pigeon. Georges St-Pierre started studying Shotokan because he was bullied as a child.

For George Foreman III, his beginnings weren’t so glamorous: his brothers would make fun of him for being chubby. Yes, the undefeated 16-0 heavyweight boxer, and second son of two-time heavyweight champion and grill salesman extraordinaire George Foreman, started his boxing career because he was teased for being overweight.

As comically underwhelming a start as one might find that to be, the decision to lose weight was only the spark; there was 24 years worth of tinder there that was amassed from being raised pretty much in the gym, and once that spark was there it ignited the fire that’s still in him today. It was an awakening of a feeling inside of George that he hadn’t known existed. He was a fighter down to his core; it only took him 24 years to realize it.

All of George Foreman’s sons might share the same name, but it was the second son with the strongest desire to step into the ring. It was the same feeling that his father felt—the same drive that compelled his dad go for the heavyweight title a second time at an unheard of 45-years-old.

“You see a lot of fighters that come from the streets, but not everyone from the streets boxes,” said George Foreman III. “I think that no matter where you come from, it’s something that’s in you—it’s either in you or it’s not.

“It’s kind of like the preacher who’s wondering why his son’s not a preacher,” George Sr. continued. “It’s a calling. I think fighting is a calling.”

Maybe that calling had gotten lost along the way with George III, but it was always there. 1983, the year he was born, was also the year when his fathered opened up the George Foreman Youth and Community Center. It was there that a young George III would watch his father train day after day.

There were a lot of George Foremans around the gym, so the dad gave them all nicknames to help distinguish one from another. He called his second son “Monk.It was an abbreviated version of the nickname George Sr.’s brothers and sisters had called him, “Monkey.” There are many parallels one can draw between Monk and his father, and oddly enough, sibling teasing has seemed to work out for both of them.

While a young George would watch his father train, he didn’t have a sense of how many boxing fans all over the world had seen his father on the biggest stage. To him, dad was just dad.

“The first time I ever realized that my father was a boxer of note would have been 1989 when he fought Gerry Cooney,” said George. “I kept hearing my friends saying, ‘My dad said your dad’s going to be on TV tonight.’”

It was a strange realization for Monk. For him, there’d been nothing that seemed out of the ordinary that his father boxed. The same way that his friends’ dads went off to work, his dad would go work out in a gym.

In 1991, after a tough decision-loss to Evander Holyfield, children at George’s school would make fun of him for his father not coming home with the belt. Like all eight-year-olds, they hit him where it hurt. Still, at the same time, they were talking about George’s dad like they would talk about the NBA finals.

“Then it kind of dawned on me that, hey, this guy’s kind of a big deal,” said the second George. “So probably 12 or 13, that’s when it really started hitting me: it was seldom that I would meet a person that didn’t know my father’s name, or didn’t own one of his products.”

With that age came understanding about his father’s career, and also more responsibility. By the time George III was a teenager, he had become an integral part of his father’s training camps.

“I would count his rounds, stretch him, line up his gloves, help clean up after him, carry his bags, and as I got a little bit older, 13 or 14, he’d let me sit in the jeep and follow him all along the country roads during his roadwork.”

Being around the gym that much and watching his father train left an unwavering impression on George, even though he left boxing behind. It’s the same as a farm boy who grows up tending to his father’s crops. Even if that farm boy didn’t grow up to be a farmer, he could still probably show you a thing or two about planting corn. That’s not to say that George never had any interested in taking up the family business.

It was an unspoken rule that George had to earn a college degree before even considering boxing. His father, after all, had fought so hard to ensure that his children didn’t have to fight.

“Before I was 24 I had [secretly] wandered into a gym in California, while attending Pepperdine University,” said George. “For some reason, I knew my dad did not want me to box.”

George had gone in a couple of times, and even sparred on one occasion, but during each visit he couldn’t help but notice all the pictures of his father posted all over the walls looking back at him. There were feelings of guilt, and also of fear that someone at this gym might ask him about his name. George couldn’t do that to his father. He decided never to go back to the gym again.

The deal had been made: all George Foremans young and old had to stop teasing Monk if he competed in a legitimate boxing match. There would be no jests about him not playing varsity in high school, and no quips about his belly if he stepped into the ring.

George had the drive. George had the history growing up in the gym. George had his father’s wisdom at his disposal. There was just one problem: George didn’t have an opponent.

No one wanted to fight him. As many advantages as the Foreman name brought, this time it meant that there was no way in hell someone was going to go against the champ’s son.

Father knew best. George Sr. suggested to his son to have his inaugural fight be as a professional. At the very least his opponent would show up for a paycheck, even if they thought they were in for a shellacking. However, there was a condition.

“He said, ‘If you’re going to have a pro fight though, you should let me train you like a pro,’” said George.

This time it was the father following his son in the jeep down the same country roads. George Sr. sat ringside while Monk sparred round after round, and watched as his son turned from an out of shape novice into a lean mean boxing machine.

The rigorous training camp was only supposed to be six weeks, and then there would be a fight. But six weeks turned to 12, and 12 weeks turned to 24. 24 weeks then turned to 52. A year had passed, and George had undergone one of the most physically intense experiences of his life, and he wanted that fight more than ever. He was ready.

In 2009 Monk fought Clyde Weaver at the Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana. He weighed in at 237 pounds. The normally calm and pleasant natured George Foreman III let that feeling in his bones take over as soon as the first bell rang. There wouldn’t be another bell. Foreman needed barely over a minute to knock his opponent out.

It was a triumphant moment for everyone. The teasing from his brothers would finally be a thing of the past, and another Foreman had finally entered the ring. Neither George nor his father saw any reason to stop. After all the time and energy spent on Monk’s training already, why not see if there could be another heavyweight champion in the family?

“With anything I do,” said George, “because I have a father who’s a New York Times best selling author, a committed minister for 40 years, a champion two times over in boxing, a successful not only spokesperson but businessman, been on TV shows, been in movies—all these things, generally anything I do people expect some sort of excellence, and they’re waiting to see what I do.”

They don’t make a size for those kinds of shoes to fill. George admits that there are some moments when he’d like to only be compared to himself, yet at the same time, it was George Sr. who taught his children to not only be successful, but to lead a life of righteousness, and to think for yourself. As long as the Foreman name stood for virtue, they could do whatever profession their hearts desired.

“The only pressure I’ve ever felt from my father is to be a good person, stand up individual, [and] the kind of guy you can look into the mirror every morning and say I’m happy with that person.”

For Monk, that happiness has come from boxing, and teaching the craft to others. With a lot of time dedicated to his new gym, he hasn’t competed professionally since 2012, but is eager to get back in the ring. He can only ignore that inner Foreman for so long.

 “Once I can have eight months of uninterrupted training where I can train at the same time everyday, have 45 days straight of sparring four to six times a week, then I’ll fight again,” said George.

“That could be a year form now, that could be three months from now. It’s all about when I can find that type of balance, but I can assure you this: I will not enter the ring unprepared.”

Once George is prepared, however, he intends to come back with purpose. He wants to be the next Foreman to sit on the heavyweight throne. George Foreman III foresees a battle with longtime heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

“I think I have what it takes to give him a great, great, great run for his money, and I would never enter the ring thinking I couldn’t beat him,” said George.

“Absolutely, I think that can happen. It’s just a matter of how long he sticks around. If he can stick around for another year, that would give me enough time to have a few fights, fight one of the guys in the top-ten to prove that I’m worthy of it, and hopefully land myself my first shot. I would love to take that fight.”

There might not be any definite date of a comeback, but the idea of a Foreman fighting for the heavyweight title again could be monumental. It could be the spark to reignite American boxing. A Klitschko-Foreman III fight would certainly give American boxing fans a feeling that they haven’t felt for quite some time.


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