55 years ago today, heavyweight legend and all-time great George Foreman boxed his very first pro fight.

Taking on Don Walheim, who was 5-4-2 at the time, 20-year-old Foreman punched out a third-round stoppage win inside Madison Square Garden, the fans there to see Joe Frazier (a future foe/victim of “Big George”) take on Jerry Quarry. Foreman, who had captured gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, was on his way to not one but two magnificent ring careers.

Nobody could possibly have known how much the big, strong, yet raw and even somewhat clumsy giant from Texas would go on to achieve. Over the coming years, with wise former champions Archie Moore and Sandy Saddler guiding him, along with Dick Saddler, Foreman would eventually become a contender. But it was no rapid rise, Foreman and his team instead often choosing quantity over quality. It took Foreman 37 fights, all wins, compiled over four-and-a-half years before he was given his first crack at the world title.

Wins over George Chuvalo, Chuck Wepner, and Gregorio Peralta were the most meaningful the young Foreman scored as he closed in on the title, with George whacking out a number of obscure fighters. But when his chance came, in January of 1973, against an unbeaten Frazier, Foreman made the most of it. Ripping the crown from Frazier inside two rounds, Foreman was instantly seen as an invincible heavyweight king.

Crushing wins over Joe Roman and Ken Norton did little to change this way of thinking. But then, in October of 1974, Foreman ran into the one, and only Muhammad Ali and we all know what happened. For some months, it seemed as though Foreman might never come back, broken as he had been by the 8th-round KO Ali had scored over him. As it turned out, “Big George” had a heck of a lot of fighting to do. It just took him 20 years to regain the heavyweight title!

Foreman’s story is a unique one. First, after the Ali loss came the epic, multi-knockdown thriller with Ron Lyle, then the loss to Jimmy Young and the subsequent religious experience in his sweltering dressing room. Then nothing…….for a full decade. Foreman had become a preacher, a man no longer interested in even balling up a fist, much less belting his fellow man with such.

But in 1987, in need of funds for his community center, Foreman came back. He was, the critics said, too old, too fat, and too long-retired to be able to do anything. But George knew better. And, as was his approach during his first ring career, Foreman mark-II fought regularly and against less than stellar opposition. Slowly, the rust came off, and the timing came back, while Foreman proved that the sheer power had never gone away.

Impressive KO’s over Gerry Cooney and Adilson Rodrigues came before Foreman, at 24-0 in the comeback, got a shot at current ruler Evander Holyfield. Foreman put on a great effort in taking Holyfield all the way, the decision loss, showing that Foreman was no gimmick in search of quick-money. And Foreman was not done yet when it came to regaining what he had lost in the African jungle all those years ago.

A points loss to Tommy Morrison forced many people to think Foreman was finally done, but after a 17-month layoff, Foreman returned (again) to challenge Holyfield’s successor, Michael Moorer. The rest is history in a story that is history personified. Foreman, at age 45, regained the title and in doing so he became the oldest heavyweight king ever. The record may never be broken.

Today, loved and admired by all, 75-year-old Foreman has some career to look back on. In fact, George has two fine ring careers to look back on!

George Foreman: 76-5(68). Two-time world heavyweight champion: 1973 to 1974 and 1994 to 1995.

One of the most incredible stories in boxing history began 55 long years ago today.

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