Former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman is best known for his ability to throw punches, and take them. But it was a devastating loss in the ring more than 30 years ago that sent Foreman's life on an entirely different course, he writes in a new book.
It happened in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on April 30, 1976. After being badly beaten and bloodied in the ring by Jimmy Young, Foreman had an epiphany in the locker room afterward.
Foreman found God.
"I had an experience. In a split-second I was dead and alive," Foreman, 58, said during an interview Monday on TODAY. "Of course, I'm only witness to it because I was there. All around me there was nothing ... I started screaming. Jesus Christ was coming to life in me. I didn't even believe in religion."
Foreman appeared on TODAY to promote his new book, "God in My Corner: A Spiritual Memoir." The book chronicles his spiritual journey following that defeat, which sent Foreman into early retirement. He's been an ordained minister now for 30 years.
"I thought [religion] was the worst thing in the world, and now here I am toting it around the country," Foreman told TODAY's Natalie Morales. "I'm an evangelist. That's what I do for a living."
Pushing 60, busy as ever
Well, that's not all Foreman does.
At age 45, he emerged from retirement and shocked the boxing world by regaining his title from a boxer almost 20 years his junior. And Foreman's still hawking his widely popular cooking grills and tools.
The new book, however, focuses more on Foreman's spiritual life, lessons he has learned, and his early struggle to get friends and naysayers to believe he was serious about his newfound belief in God after the Young fight.
"How did you get them to finally believe it was for real?" Morales asked.
"It took years. Lots of years," Foreman said. "Most of them thought I was crazy. They thought it was a publicity stunt. This was the most magnificent thing that ever happened to me in my life."
The new book also reveals some things about Foreman that many have wondered — like why he decided to name all five of his sons George.
"Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton. They hit you on the head, see how many names you can remember," Foreman said in response to a question from Morales. "Duh."