“Big” George Foreman And His Comeback Dream

35 years ago today, almost ten years to the day since he had last been seen inside a boxing ring, a 38-year-old former heavyweight champion by the name of George Foreman – known as “Big” in nickname terms – shocked the world by climbing back into battle.

Much overweight, much in need of funds and much-maligned mere hours into his stunner of a comeback, the man who had ruled the heavyweight landscape with such destructive ferocity in the years 1973 and 1974 (before running into the incomparable Muhammad Ali in the heart of Africa) was back and he was back at ground level.

Foreman, who had found God inside a sweltering Puerto Rican dressing room minutes after losing a decision to the criminally underrated Jimmy Young, had been punching for the Lord and on behalf of his Youth and Community Center ever since. But he was coming close to being broke, his good intentions having eaten away at the $millions he had earned in his glory days (crushing wins over Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, and his at-the-time-unheard-of $5million payday for the Ali-fight).

Foreman had a Eureka moment. He knew how to make money – by boxing! Former trainer Gil Clancy was called but Gil was cool on the idea of ​​a ring return at around 300 pounds, this after a decade out. “Call me again and I’ll come and see what kind of condition you’re in,” Clancy told his former charge. Gil never heard back from George.

Instead, Foreman came back with Charlie Shipes and soon Archie Moore, both of whom had been there for Foreman’s first, destructive incarnation. And Foreman was patient, taking on smaller, no-name (but often tough) opponents as he looked to shed himself of a decade of rust. This was no money grab, no quick and cynical comeback where the motive was to take a big payday, inevitably get beaten, and then disappear again. No, Foreman was in it for the long haul.

Picking on a pretty durable but small journeyman/trial horse in the form of the approx 210 pounds Steve Zouski (who had lasted into round-three with a young Mike Tyson and would later take power-puncher Tommy Morrison the distance), Foreman invaded Sacramento and 5,000 fans showed up. These curious ticket-buyers were expecting to see God knows what. But the fight, and with it, Foreman’s lumbering performance was ridiculed by the media. Yet George was walking the initial steps towards making history – even if no one could possibly have known it or believed it on the evening of March 9, 1987; or even many months, if not years after.

But we all know now how special a fighter, indeed how unique a human being, Foreman was and is. And we Foreman fans, who dared to dream right along with our hero, believing through all the jokes and criticism that George could do it, can today take smug satisfaction in looking back to the very beginning of the most likely comeback in heavy weight history while pointing a finger and saying, ‘yeah, I knew he’d do it!’

Whether we truly believed in George or not is not the point. Foreman made us feel good, feel great, and he forever rubbed out the first two letters of the word impossible in doing what he did.

All these years later, we’re still immensely grateful. Foreman came back his way, he refused to listen to the self-proclaimed experts, and he made the heavyweight division that much richer and interesting — to say nothing of the sheer fun George added — as a result of his odds-defying ring performances and results.

I wonder, where Steve Zouski is these days? Stopped in the fourth round by a 267 pound Foreman, Steve played his own small part in the making of boxing history, after all.

Leave a Comment