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George Foreman, the oldest heavyweight champion has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Getty Images/Patty Wood
``It's wonderful. Finally, I'm not the Grillman,'' Foreman said on Sunday with a big smile, holding aloft his new ring signifying his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. ``I'm a Boxing Hall of Famer, and I love it.''
Foreman, who ruled the ring in reigns separated by two decades and became the oldest heavyweight champion in history during an improbable comeback a decade ago, led this year's induction class.
Fifteen other boxers, officials and ring personalities were also enshrined, including Mike McCallum of Jamaica, a champion in three divisions, Nicolino Locche, a world lightweight champion from Argentina with a reputation as one of the finest defensive boxers in history, welterweight champion Curtis Cokes, one of Foreman's idols, Oscar-winning writer Budd Schulberg and journalist Jack Fiske.
Foreman grew up in Marshall, Texas, and was a self-proclaimed mugger and street brawler by age 15. He found the sport that would make him famous after joining the Job Corps, where a counsellor and boxing coach changed his life.
Foreman won the U.S. National AAU heavyweight championship in 1968 and then the Olympic gold at the Summer Games in Mexico City in just his 25th amateur bout.
With ex-heavyweight champion Sonny Liston as his sparring partner, Foreman turned pro in 1969 and ripped through opponents, winning his first 37 fights 34 by knockout.
On January 22, 1973, the hard-punching Foreman claimed the heavyweight crown by dropping champion Joe Frazier to the canvas six times in two rounds before knocking him out in Jamaica.
Rumble in the Jungle
After successfully defending his title twice, Foreman met Ali in the ``Rumble in the Jungle'' in Zaire, on October 30, 1974. Ali knocked out the seemingly invincible Foreman in the eighth round, using his famed tactic to tire Foreman and pulled off one of boxing's greatest upsets.
``You know about the rope a dope?'' Foreman asked. ``I'm the dope.''
Foreman continued boxing until March 17, 1977, when he dropped a 12-round decision to Jimmy Young. In the locker room after the fight, Foreman said he underwent a religious experience that took him from the ring to the pulpit. He continues to preach at his Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
After a 10-year absence, Foreman astounded the boxing world by returning to the ring despite being overweight, out of shape and long past his prime. He recalled the moment to boisterous laughter from the hundreds of fans looking on.
``I got back into boxing, and it was rough going,'' Foreman said. ``People were making jokes, `How is George Foreman ever going to become the prodigal son of boxing if he still looks like the fatted calf? He can't be heavyweight champ of the world as long as his training camp is Baskin Robbins.' I heard it all, but I knew how to box,'' he said.
And he proved it on November 5, 1994. At age 45, Foreman knocked out 26-year-old Michael Moorer in the 10th round to win the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles.
Foreman retired for good in 1997 with a record of 76-5 with 68 KOs and has made far more money outside the ring than he did in it by pitching his fat-cutting grill. AP
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