George Foreman is the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history, having won the belt in 1994 at the age of 45. So if anyone knows what it’s like to have success past what most people consider your prime, it’s him.
Which is why he doesn’t care how old Manny Pacquiao (36) and Floyd Mayweather (38) are, nor does he care that “The Fight of the Century” could have – and some would say should have – happened five or six years ago.
“I’m just happy the fight is happening, and it’s happening right now,” Foreman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Everyone will get a chance to see what they wanted to see. If it had happened five years ago, there would have been some too young to enjoy (and) some old enough to say, ‘Hey, there was better days.’ But now everyone’s hungry for the matchup of the century. (These are) evenly matched fighters. It’s a fan’s fight, and it should be. It’s big.”
Pacquiao and Mayweather, of course, have contrasting styles. Pacquiao is a punching machine, whereas Mayweather is a defensive genius. Foreman was asked what advice he would give Pacquiao for this match.
“Hey, just win this round,” Foreman said. “Every time you come back to the corner, you sit down on the stool, wave the towel over him and don’t say anything. The bell rings, go get him again. Do the same thing you did the first round all the way through the sixth or seventh round, and you’ll win.”
Foreman, 66, opened up a bit about his own career. He fought throughout the 1960s and 1970s, winning a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City and fighting in some of the most famous matches of all time, including “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
He retired for the first time in the late-1970s and became a minister – and still is.
Then Foreman began putting on weight. A lot of weight. In fact, he got up to 315 pounds. He went to a basketball game one day and someone confused him for William “Refrigerator” Perry. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Foreman “became broke.”
He knew what he had to do.
“Believe me, I wish I had been a golfer,” he joked. “I didn’t know how to get money but my own profession – and that was boxing. I went back to work again, had to take off my shirt – and that’s not easy when you’ve enjoyed the life of Baskin-Robbins and all of that, but I did it. I had to make a living. I have 10 kids. Named all my sons George.”
Gottlieb asked Foreman why he did that.
“Well, you’ve heard of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton?” Foreman jabbed before delivering the punchline. “You let those guys hit you on the head and see how many names you can come up with.”
Foreman retired in 1997 at the age of 48, finishing his career 76-5 (68 KO).
Asked to make a prediction on the upcoming fight, he declined – at least initially.
“I’d like to see the best man win, but you start making these picks and then all of a sudden you’re not going to enjoy the fight because you’ll (start rooting for the guy you picked),” Foreman explained. “I don’t want to be like that. I think they’re evenly matched. I’ll give Pacquiao six rounds and one round even. He may win it by one round.”
Some people believe that Pacquiao (57-5-2) has nothing to lose in this fight, that all the pressure is on Mayweather (47-0).
“That’s true,” Foreman said. “(Mayweather’s) got everything to lose. But boxing was invented for the underdog – for the smaller guy who doesn’t have a chance – to come up with a way to beat the bigger, stronger guy. That’s why I give it to Pacquiao. The sport was invented for the lesser.”