July 1, 2023 – George Foreman, An Example of Black Excellence

George Forman

George Foreman was a professional boxer who was born in Marshall, Texas. He dropped out of school at 15 and spent time as  a mugger and a brawler on the streets of Houston’s Fifth Ward. Luckily, he was saved by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Job Corp, a program that helped disadvantaged kids by teaching them vocational job skills. One day he saw his heroes, Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas, on TV promoting Job Corps. They said you could get another chance at high school, learn a vocation and even play sports like they did. So he joined. He earned his GED and trained to become a carpenter and bricklayer.

He traveled to California where he met Doc Broadus, a Job Corp counselor and a boxing coach.  George Foreman decided to become a boxer. Once he began to train, he rapidly established an impressive record. In 1968, he won gold for the United  States as an Olympic boxer.

In 1969, George Foreman turned professional. He was one of the most powerful punchers in boxing history. By 1972, he was ranked as the No. 1 challenger by the WBA and WBC. In 1973, he fought Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title and punished him, knocking him down seven times in the second round before the fight was stopped. 

Foreman had a perfect 37-0 record when he beat Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica in 1973.  He was beaten by Mohammed Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” He retired and returned to the ring several times. When he ultimately retired in 1997, he had a career record of 76 wins and 5 losses. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on June 8, 2003.

In 1978, George Foreman was ordained as a minister. He founded the George Foreman Youth and Community Center, a  non-denominational place for kids who needed direction like he once did.  In 2013, he was the recipient of the 2013 American Legion James V. Day Good Guy Award.

In the 1990’s, George Foreman discovered he had a talent for salesmanship.  He began making millions of dollars for his appearances in informercials. He promoted Meineke Car Care Centers and grew the business into over 1,000 franchises. He successfully launched a line of environmentally-safe cleaning products, personal care products and prescription shoes for diabetics to prevent amputations.

The story of how George Forman became the spokesperson for the George Foreman Grill is fascinating. In Foreman’s book Knockout Entrepreneur, he tells how he almost passed up the best deal of his career. He did not invent the George Foreman Grill. Michael Boehm created the first prototype as an experiment.  Boehm worked for Tsann Kuen and called it the “Short Order Grill.”  In 1995, they applied for a patent. Two years later, the patent was approved. Boehm and his employer ultimately approached Salton. 

The Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine, also known as the George Foreman Grill, was introduced in 1994 and promoted by George Foreman in infomercials. The world-wide popularity of the machine resulted in sales of over 100 million units. Although Foreman never confirmed exactly how much he has earned, Salton Inc. paid him $138 million for the right to use his  name.  Previous to that deal he was being paid about 40 percent of the profits on each grill sold, earning him $4.5 million a month at its peak.  It is estimated that he earned over $200 million for his endorsement of the Grill.

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