More Than Enough Fury
George Foreman was born on January 10, 1949, to J.D. and Nancy Foreman, in Marshall, Texas, the fifth of seven children. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Houston, where his mother hoped to find better work. His largely absentee father was a railroad worker, but he usually drank away his salary, so the family generally depended on his mother's earnings at various jobs. As Foreman recalled in his autobiography By George, "There was always more than enough fury in my house, and never enough food." Young George grew up poor and angry, but big. His size and aggression soon earned him respect on the streets of Houston's Fifth Ward, nicknamed "The Bloody Fifth," for the number of knife fights that took place there. After dropping out of junior high, he began a life of petty crime.
By age 16 George Foreman was 6'1" and 185 pounds, and he had already gotten a taste of strong-arm robbery and work as an "enforcer." Then he spotted an ad for the Job Corps on television. He joined up and was sent to Grant's Pass, Oregon, and later to Parks Center, California. All meals were provided, so for once Foreman had enough to eat, and he got a monthly allowance of $30, plus $50 a month held in escrow until he had finished his two-year stint. Still, he could not stop fighting. He got into fights in his dormitory, and in the nearby town of Pleasanton, California. One day, while counselors were trying to pull him off one of his victims, Doc Broadus, a supervisor, stepped in to end the fight. Broadus, a boxing enthusiast, spotted Foreman's obvious potential and decided to channel it into boxing. With help from Broadus, Foreman developed his skills and within two years, he had qualified for the Olympic boxing team.
So in 1968, George Foreman headed for Mexico City. This was a difficult time in the U.S., with rioting in the streets in many American cities over civil rights and Vietnam, and there were divisions within the African American community over whether to support U.S. policy. These divisions were on display when two African American track winners, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, stood with clenched fists upraised during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner." Carlos and Smith were ejected from the Olympic Village. Foreman was tempted to join their protest, but Carlos encouraged him to keep on. Foreman did, and he won the gold medal in heavyweight boxing. At the victory ceremony, Foreman waved a small American flag. For some back home, this was seen as a betrayal of Carlos and Smith, and maybe even the civil rights struggle. Feeling that he did not belong in the Fifth Ward anymore, Foreman eagerly snapped up a job offer by Doc Broadus to teach boxing at the Job Corps in Parks Center. He undertook a serious training regimen, avoiding alcohol and smoking.