Muhammad Ali might’ve talked a good fight, but he would’ve had nothing on famous for George Foreman’s sermons.
Every Sunday, Foreman, 71, has churchgoers at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston, Texas hanging on to his every word.
‘Big George’, who famously fought Ali in ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, is now a preacher fighting for the belief of God.
His knockout delivery, often lasting an hour, covers everything from drug use to the planet Pluto, getting lost in traffic, the morals of dogs, and, of course, Adam and Eve, the treacherous serpent and a furious God.
Born into a poor family of six children, his mum didn’t have time to take him to church – and the only time he went was for a “free lunch.”
But in 1977, after a brutal defeat to Jimmy Young, he believes he came face-to-face with God.
“In the dressing room I was walking back and forth to cool off,” he told the Houston Chronicle.
“Then in a split second, I was fighting for my life.”
He slipped into unconsciousness before a “giant hand” pulled him out and he found himself on a locker room table surrounded by friends and staff.
“I knew that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me,” Foreman said.
“I ran into the shower and turned on the water and — hallelujah! — I was born again. I kissed everybody in the dressing room and told them I loved them. That happened in March 1977, and I never have been the same again.”
A year later, Foreman was ordained as a minister – sometimes preaching on streets of Houston to hone his public speaking skills.
“I want to tell everybody that there is really a living God,” he told Believers Portal.
“This is not about a television show, but this is real and it scared me. When I left boxing in 1977 to be a preacher I couldn’t make a fist after I learned about Jesus Christ.”
In 1980, he founded The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, where he entertains his followers to this day.
Then, in 1984 the George Foreman Youth and Community Center was born, where kids of all denominations could visit for guidance.
The aim was to teach children that a clenched fist was not the answer to combating anger issues, and he became a father-figure to many who had lost their direction.
So dedicated to the cause, Foreman came out of retirement in 1987 and returned to the ring for a series of pay days – just so he could keep the centre open when he ran into financial problems.
He would fight on the Saturday night, rush to the airport and fly back to Houston, just so he wouldn’t miss his Sunday service.
After the congregation have been warmed up through song, singing the gospel, Foreman takes to the stand.
Standing at 6ft 4in, he commands respect – not just for his presence, but through his teachings.
“I’m always studying the Bible,” Foreman told The NY Times.
“It’s all about studying and learning, and here’s the scary thing: The more you learn, the more you realise how much you don’t know.”
Juggling his George Foreman Grills business, his meat company, and managing the youth centre, Foreman still manages to give up to three sermons a week.
“On Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, I try to reveal something about the Bible that they didn’t know,” Foreman revealed.
“On Sunday evenings, I understand that people need something to help them all through the week. I have the New Testament to draw on. It’s 2,000 years old. I can’t run out of ideas.”