To some, he’s a two-time heavyweight boxing champion. And to others, he’s the genius behind the lean, mean fat-reducing grilling machine. In his new memoir, “Knockout Entrepreneur,” George Foreman explains how he went from ring master to building a multimillion-dollar electronic business. An excerpt:
When One Dream Ends, Dream Another
When I realized what a great product the grill was, I promoted it passionately. I could tell that my boxing career was winding down, but my career as a pitchman for the grill was on its way up, so I talked about the grill everywhere I went — even at boxing matches! For instance, I fought my last boxing match against Shannon Briggs at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in November 1997. Shannon was twenty-five years of age with orange-colored dreadlocks, and I was forty-eight and bald. He weighed 227 pounds, and I weighed 260. Shannon Briggs had won thirty fights, with one loss and twenty-four knockouts; I had won seventy-six matches, with four losses and sixty-eight knockouts. Plus, by then I had won boxing’s most prestigious title — heavyweight champion of the world — twice, the second time at forty-five years of age.
When the fight began, Briggs came out quickly, snapping a sharp left jab. He caught me with that jab at least twice in that first round, and it really hurt. But when the bell rang, I went back to my corner and stood — just as I had for every fight since my return to boxing ten years earlier — while my opponent sat down and rested. My trainer, Angelo Dundee, gave me some water and I was ready to go back to work.
The bell rang for round two. Briggs came out fast again, but halfway through the round, I connected with three left jabs as I continued pressing toward Briggs, who was backpedaling. The younger, faster fighter kept trying to move away from me, but I advanced on him anytime I could. The match continued like that for the first five rounds with me constantly applying the pressure. Toward the end of the sixth, though, Briggs bounced several blows off my shaved head and a couple into my face, causing my eyes to swell a bit.
By the eighth round, Briggs must have thought I was getting tired — I wasn’t. I connected with numerous hard punches, one of which was a straight shot to Shannon’s jaw. Craackk! All over the arena the crowd heard the blow and gasped as the leather of my glove smashed into Shannon’s jawbone, and for a moment I thought he might go down. Briggs hung on and I kept after him, but he got me with a hard hook just before the bell rang, ending the round.
We continued exchanging hard blows for twelve rounds, and nearly everyone in the arena thought that I was winning, far ahead on points — everyone except two of the three judges. During the final round the entire audience was on its feet, the crowd yelling and cheering us on. Blood was dripping from Shannon’s nose as we exchanged strong punches in the center of the ring. Just before the final bell rang, Briggs let loose a flurry of punches and a lot of them landed. The fight ended with both of us standing and still swinging.
It seemed to take forever for the judges to tally their scores. When the decision was announced that Briggs had won, his cornermen jumped into the ring and lifted Shannon onto their shoulders as the crowd booed the verdict. Most fans, I later learned, had me winning eight or nine of the twelve rounds. Many thought that the fight had been rigged and that I had been robbed. I felt I had won the fight; the people believed I had won the fight. Even Shannon Briggs looked surprised that the judges declared him the winner. But the judges said that he had won, so I walked across the ring and congratulated the young boxer.
In the Good Book, I read about a time when King David, the second king of Israel, was discouraged, and even the people he had hoped to help were speaking evil of him. Distressed as he was, he decided that he would encourage himself and exercise his faith in God.1 Sometimes that is exactly what you have to do. Don’t wait around for everyone else to pat you on the back or tell you how talented you are; pat yourself on the back, and remind yourself of all the good things you have going for you.
Anyone can be encouraged when things are going well, when you are winning at every point. That’s easy. But when you get knocked down on the canvas of life, that’s the time to encourage yourself. Get up and remind yourself: This is a new opportunity; my best days are ahead; this is going to be the best time of my life; my business and career are going to flourish. What happened yesterday is over and done. You really can’t do anything about what has happened in your past, but you can do a lot about your attitude regarding the past. Now is the time to seek the next opportunity.
Of course, I was discouraged and disappointed to hear the referee’s voice reverberating throughout the arena, “And the winner is —” and he didn’t call out my name. Nobody wants to lose, least of all, me! For a few moments I had my own personal pity party. I wanted to dive under the canvas and escape the millions of eyes watching me. But that boxing match was history. Other people might want to talk about it for a long time, but that wasn’t going to do me any good.
While I was still in the ring after the fight, the crowd was booing because the people felt that I had received an unfair decision. Home Box Office (HBO) fight commentator, Larry Merchant, pulled me close to his microphone and said, “Well, George, what do you say?”
“Have you ever heard of the George Foreman Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine?” I asked him. “Look at me,” I gushed. “The grill works!” I shouted.
Larry looked shocked. “What does that have to do with the boxing match?” he asked.
“Nothin’,” I said, “but you gotta talk about how good I feel. The grill works!” I looked straight into the camera and said, “No home should be without this thing.” I smiled. “God bless you. Go get one!” The way I figured, I had a microphone in front of me, and this was my chance to make something good out of a bad situation.
The broadcaster continued to probe. “George, what are you going to do now?”
What an open door! I went on to tell him more about my new venture with the grill, and I turned that defeat into a new opportunity. To this day, people still come up to me and comment on my demeanor and sales pitch after that boxing match. Most of them can’t remember who won the fight, but they know I didn’t lose!
At the press conference after the Briggs fight, a lot of reporters asked me if I was going to give up boxing at last. “I don’t think I’ll be boxing again,” I told them. “I don’t need that anymore. I had fun tonight. There were a lot of boos and a lot of cheers, but all in all, I had a great time.” Truth is, I was kind of glad to be out of that fight. Rather than respond to any more questions about my past, I immediately looked to the future. I knew I’d be busy promoting the grill.
One reporter asked me, “George, you lost this fight. Do you feel like you have been robbed?”
“Where I come from, when they rob ya, you don’t have a pocket full of money,” I quipped. Instead of feeling robbed, I felt incredibly blessed. The George Foreman grill was on the market, and I had done my best to promote it. Now I could only hope that the public would buy it.
And people really did. Men and women, college students and gourmet cooks, people everywhere bought the George Foreman grill, used it, and loved it. Just as important, they told their friends about it. My first royalty check for the grill was about $3,000; the next one was less, about $2,500. Then the next one was for more than $1 million! The next month’s check was for $2 million, then $3 million! It got to the point where I was receiving royalties of nearly $5 million per month! The George Foreman grill became the single best-selling electrical appliance in history. When one dream dies or comes to an end, don’t wallow in despair. Dream a new dream and then work hard to see it come to pass. That’s what I did. I took every opportunity to promote the grill — doing interviews and television programs, constantly looking for a chance to turn the conversation from boxing to grilling — and it worked!
Excerpted from "Knockout Entrepreneur,"by George Foreman with Ken Abraham. Copyright (c) 2009, reprinted with permission from