George Foreman is one of the all-time greats, and he holds the distinction of being the oldest fighter to ever win one of the major belts, when he came back to win the heavyweight title two decades after he had previously held it. On May 21st, Bernard Hopkins will try to break his record by defeating Jean Pascal in their highly anticipated rematch. Take a look at what Foreman has to say about Hopkins, the Hopkins-Pascal rematch, his record, and more.
“You must get a knockout. This fight and the record will not be broken on a unanimous decision. There must be a knockout.
“He is the last, truly, thinking man’s fighter, boxer and puncher. That’s what makes Bernard unique. He thinks in the ring.
“I’ll be watching HBO. Can you imagine? HBO was there when I knocked out Joe Frazier as the inauguration of their fighting program on television. Now, if they’re able to televise Bernard Hopkins breaking the record of George Foreman-man, what a milestone.
[On his own record and career] “I thought such a record would last a lot longer than it has lasted because 45 is phenomenal and just think, Bernard Hopkins is 46. He’s probably the only one who could break such a record because not only does he possess this big punch to get a knockout, but he’s also a good boxer and at times, a counter-puncher. He can pull it off, no doubt about it.
“I think if Bernard has any idea of how great an opportunity this is not only for boxing, but for all sports. Once I became champion again, it pushed other athletes in other sports to even drive and do things at a later age. If Bernard is able to win this thing and do it decisively, it’s going to help boxing. I don’t think guys should be looking at their career as over just because they’re 35. You need time to pursue other things, like get a college education, be a movie star, and then come back, lick your fingers and be a champion again.
[On the similarities between Foreman and Hopkins] “It’s all about pride. That’s about it. It’s not limited to just pride in yourself, but also your community, your family, and boxing. Those are the similarities we have. He looks in the mirror and he still sees a young kid. Bernard Hopkins-he still thinks he’s a kid, you know? I did the same thing.
“You step into the ring at 46, you just got to understand that you are just a kid like the other guy across the ring. You can’t look at yourself as a 46-and that’s a challenge, too. It is a challenge because you walk in the ring. Everybody you know-all your buddies and friends got gray hair. You’re going to have to just get over there and say, ‘I’m not one of those guys!’
“After I lost the title to Muhammad Ali and then [lost to] Jimmy Young, I had so much time off. If I had made up my mind to continue, I think that I could have been champion, regained the title and the reign would have lasted all the way into ’94. Time helped me, but not as much as if I’d been active, I could’ve done it a lot easier.
“Larry Holmes once told me when I made up my mind to get back into boxing, he said, ‘George, you can do it.’ He said, ‘If I had your punch, there wouldn’t be any question about it.’ He encouraged me more than anyone. Muhammad Ali was always, ‘Keep punching. You can do it.’ Joe Frazier-he had a little faith in me. So, from the days back, the previous guys did encourage me in their own way.
“It was so hard to come back after 10 years. I was out there relaxing and enjoying-eating and sleeping when I wanted to. Desserts were on the menu, something I didn’t do previously. To stop all of that and then pursue boxing, go to bed early when babies are crying around the house. I didn’t have that originally. It was rough. It became a job.
“In the first time around, I had this dynamite program with reflexes. I could stop punches before they’d get there, catch them in the air, just before you hit me, I’d hit you; I had this dynamic program of reflexes. Coming back in the gym, I found out, that’s not going to work. So, I had to change my style, set my defense exactly where a guy is going to hit me and not move them around too much. I would have to go longer distance because I knew people would try to extend me because of my age. So, from three and a half miles, I had to add 10 miles to my program of running.
[Staying in shape past 40] “A great obstacle that a lot of people don’t understand is that as you get older, you start looking at young people as if to say, “Oh, that kid.” You can’t do that. That’s the obstacle. Make certain that you look and see-every guy that you see is not a kid. Though he’s 21, 22, or 23, it’s an obstacle to not look at them as competitors equal to you when that bell rings. It’s great.
[On being 45 and setting the age record] “You find yourself at open houses with your children. Then, all of a sudden, you realize you have a grandchild. I had a grandchild. I was having grandkids. Then, you think, ‘Is that possible? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world, a grandfather?’ It did start to sink in. I wondered, ‘I don’t think anyone would ever do this.’ That’s why it’s very important. I’ll be watching anxiously to see how this will turn out because grandpas are competing now.
[On Pascal] “He’s a great fighter. He’s from a great country that has great boxers. He understands that this fight is not only going up to defend his title, but at the same time, he’s got pride in what he’s doing.
[On Pascal’s chances of winning on points in Montreal] “Well, one thing you got to understand is that hometown thing. It gives you an extra something in your body that you generally don’t have. I mean, it gives you more courage. It gives you more speed. He is able to land shots that Bernard Hopkins is not able to land. Bernard is a decisive, good, crisp puncher. He doesn’t waste time on throwing nothing shots. The champion-he doesn’t mind. Any shot is a point and I think he’s better equipped to win because he’s not looking for a knockout. It’s a point system and he is better equipped to win this fight on the point system [in Montreal].
[On Hopkins] “The last time I had a chance to communicate with Bernard, he was at a competitive age. He was just doing what he was supposed to do. Of course, he was a veteran fighter, but at this point, we’ve never had a chance to talk about it. He’s one of those guys who just continuously goes out and does what he’s going to do. Probably recently, he’s starting to say, ‘I’m a senior here. This is going to have to be undertaken as a feat,’ but I’ve never had such a conversation with him.
“My hope is that he’ll go out there and put on a good fight. Understand that these fights generally are not won by decisions. In the latter rounds; he should look for a knockout like I did. There was no way I could have been in the record books without that one-two knockout punch. Bernard Hopkins-he’s got it, but he’s going to have to get it by way of knockout.
“Bernard is a thinking man’s fighter. I didn’t realize that until he fought Trinidad. I had no idea. I always considered him a good, rough-and-tough fighter, but with the Trinidad fight, he took his time. He measured the ring. He measured the fighter, used his jab, and threw his right hand from a distance until the time for the knockout. He is the last, truly, thinking man’s fighter, boxer and puncher. That’s what makes Bernard unique. He thinks in the ring. Most people, even myself, were overtaken with that moment. You get excited. A guy hits you in the eye. You got to get him back. You got to get payback. This man thinks. He doesn’t wait for the corner to tell him what’s going on. He thinks while he’s active in the ring.
[On Pascal vs. Hopkins I] “I was just sitting there on the edge, hoping that he’d pull it off, but Bernard has to realize, as I did when I fought Michael Moorer, you must get a knockout. This fight and the record will not be broken on a unanimous decision. There must be a knockout.
[On Pascal vs. Hopkins II] “It is important to appeal to the youthful pride. Meet in the middle of the ring and say, ‘Let’s fight. What are you running from? C’mon.’ [If you do that] you appeal to all of the boxers, ex-boxers and all the fans who want boxing back in its proper position.
“Bernard has to understand that this guy, the champion, could land one punch, two punches, three punches that mean nothing to him, but they could be points in the bag. That’s why I expecting Bernard to load up in the latter end of the fight, and go for the knockout, break that record, and break it fair and square where everybody can see it.
“The first fight is going to have to be erased. The decision was not of quality. The second time around, Bernard will get a knockout.
“I’ll be watching HBO. Can you imagine? HBO was there when I knocked out Joe Frazier as the inauguration of their fighting program on television. Now, if they’re able to televise Bernard Hopkins breaking the record of George Foreman-man, what a milestone..
Foreman Introduces Hopkins:
“Bernard Hopkins-probably the only man that stands a chance to break all records, one that’s going to set and stay there for a long time. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the great one.”
“Thank you, Big George. I’d like to say to everybody that’s listening before we start, this is a bittersweet opportunity for me because George Foreman has always been a guy that we came up on-I say “we”-my era with the Ali’s, the Joe Frazier’s, the George Foreman’s. So, I’m going to represent history very well come next Saturday, May 21st. There are not too many fighters able to have this kind of opportunity. So, I will not sneeze at this. I will take this title. I will become the oldest champion. So, thank you, George. Again, I would like to tell everybody it’s a bittersweet opportunity for me because of George’s legacy, but it’s in good hands, George.”
“All records were set to be broken. I’m just hoping someone will come back and do it at 65 so I can come back again.”
“I will be right behind you…hopefully.”