Foreman: To regain its punch, boxing in U.S. needs a hero

Former two-time heavyweight boxing champion and entrepreneur George Foreman laughs as he meets with the media Thursday at the Adams Alumni Center on the Kansas University campus.

Former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman visited Kansas University on Thursday, along with George Kimball, a boxing journalist and KU alumnus, as part of a boxing symposium at KU.

The forum was organized by Robert Rodriguez, a lecturer in American studies at KU who writes about boxing. The three met members of the media Thursday afternoon before an event on campus in the evening.

Q: Has interest in boxing gone down in recent years?

GK: In comparison with other sports, yes, it’s probably gone back a bit … but if you look at how much boxing there is on television, there’s probably more of it on television than there ever was before, and that’s just in this country. I think globally, it’s bigger than ever.

GF: In this country we’re accustomed to having boxers be kind of like heroes. … We just haven’t had a hero. We just need one hero. That’s all. If we get one hero, we’re back where we were.

RR: In South America, in Europe, it’s still one of the top three sports, and in the United States it might have fallen out of the public consciousness for long periods of time. … I think two factors that have contributed to that are, one, the proliferation of world championships … and then, of course, the lack of boxing available on free, network television.

Q: Why did you make the transition to become successful in the business world with your George Foreman grilling machines after your boxing career?

GF: You have to understand that if you’re in a business … if you’re going to make a dollar, part of that has to go into publicity.

I knew I would not be able to live happily ever after on a boxing salary. … It’s easier to spend a million dollars than it is to spend a thousand, believe me, or even 700.

Q: Why are you passionate about boxing and writing?

GK: There’s a historic connection between great boxing and great writing. I’ve spent a lot of the last six months trying to put together this boxing anthology for the Library of America. … There’s no other sport that’s produced this much great writing by this many great writers.

GF: Even greater than the actual boxing match. … To sit back sometimes after a fight and read what really happened, it’s really helped me a lot. You’re kind of going, “How did they know?” (Writers) tell a story that’s going to stick around a lot longer than a left hand or left hook. Some of the great fights in the world, there aren’t any films, so it’s up to the writers to leave what really happened. So that’s why I’m happy to be here with these men; they write about what I really do.