About the blog

Welcome to my blog. This is a place where, as time allows, I will post comments, inspirational words, favorite things and short essays about daily life. I get to meet and interview interesting people through my job, so why not share some of it with all of you? If you like what you see, please forward a link to your friends and family.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Me

Even if you don’t know a thing about boxing you’ve heard of its legendary figures, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Frazier was the man who was built like a bull and had a famous left hook that he himself referred to as a “heat-seeking missile.’ In 1971, in what was called “The Fight of the Century” he won the heavyweight title from the flambouyant and charismatic Muhammad Ali. Frazier, who in September announced that he had liver cancer, died this month. Among the people called on to talk about Frazier was George Foreman, the Houston boxer who took that heavyweight belt from Frazier in 1973.

Their stories have many parallels: Both men were born to poor families and found themselves on their own as teens. Both men were born to box, big men with powerful arms and ferocious focus.  Both won gold medals in boxing in the Olympics (Frazier in 1964, Foreman in 1968) and both were heavyweight champions.

I never met Frazier, though by all accounts he was a decent man, an underdog who captured America’s heart. He was a good friend of Foreman – a man I have gotten to know a little through interviews for the Houston Chronicle – and Foreman has volunteered to pay for at least part of Frazier’s funeral.

Frazier left boxing bitter about losses to Muhammad Ali and badly managed whatever money he won.

Foreman went a different route after becoming a Christian and forming his own church – the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ – across the street from a community center and boxing ring he created for young men in Houston, the city where grew up and where he still lives.

The photos I’ve seen of Foreman in his boxing days hardly resemble the grandfatherly man I know today. He’s one of the kindest and most sincere men I’ve met as a journalist. When he meets children, he wants to know if they’ve had enough to eat. He spent his own childhood hungry for food and a place to call home. He doesn’t want children today to suffer as he did.

“Joe Frazier was comfortable in his own skin. A regular guy and a great champion. All heart,” Foreman told my colleague Jerome Solomon for a tribute column on the boxing legend. “I wanted to be like him. This guy was so kind.”

Foreman said that Frazier changed his life when he agreed to that title bout in 1973. Until then, Foreman had been a formidable boxer. After, he was a champion.

If George Foreman wanted to be the kind, considerate man that Frazier was, he achieved that and more. He brings love to everything he touches. He inspires and gives hope to everyone he meets, including me.

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