Big George Foreman is set to make his return to HBO broadcasting this Saturday night to commentate an event in Macau, China. It has been over 8 years since George has called an HBO event and joining him in this comeback will be a familiar face, as he will again be teamed up with Larry Merchant. I was recently afforded the opportunity on my radio show “On The Ropes” to speak to George about the event and get his views on how this reunion came about. I also asked George about the fighters that will be on the card and got his view on how he believes Zou Shiming will transition from amateur boxing to the pros. In addition Foreman discussed the current boxing landscape and gave his thoughts on the future of boxing star Manny Pacquiao. Here is what George Foreman had to say in part 1 of this 2 part interview.
Jenna Jay: George you are making your return to commentating this Saturday night, and you will again be working with Larry Merchant. How did this opportunity come about?
George Foreman: It’s strange because Bob Arum, of course is in promotion, and I decided to get with him, and start trying to get back into the promotion business myself and one of the shows he’s putting on he thought was very attractive and he said “hey why not reunite Larry Merchant and George Foreman,” and it sounds funny at first and all of a sudden I realized it would be something unique and that’s what happened.
Jenna: What have you missed most about commentating on HBO?
Foreman: Broadcasting was real good to me, because I didn’t realize I was enjoying it, until I realized it was a job and I said you know that’s the reason I went into boxing, because I didn’t want to have a job, but after 13 years I realized, man I’m punching in like everybody else, so that’s the part of the reason why I left boxing, but I did miss the camaraderie and meeting Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant and getting ready for pre-fights and all of those things, I missed that, I really did.
Jenna: The card you will be calling is in Macau, China. What do you think of the fights that will be part of the telecast?
Foreman: I think it’s really good, all of a sudden you just got that international flavor. Very seldom you can take fighters who are not genuinely big heavyweights and take them to the far-far part of the world like that and then say look this is an evenly matched bout and punchers and it’s gotten everything to keep the audience glued to the seat.
Jenna: The main event features flyweight world champion Brian “hawaiian punch” Viloria defending his title belts. What do you think of the fight Viloria has in front of him?
Foreman: It’s an even match, but he’s going to be have be careful, because he is in with a puncher, and of course he can slug too, but somebody who can box and elude and can punch can cause a lot of trouble. I really admire both fighters.
Jenna: On the card you’re calling we are going to see the debut of former Gold medalist Zou Shiming. You yourself won gold in the Olympics and turned pro, what is that transition like?
Foreman: That’s probably the most prized profession a boxer can get as an amateur is an Olympic medal to even appear in the Olympics, so once you do that and you’re introduced and everybody knows you as that, a fighter decides if I beat him, I got international recognition in the 1st bout, so it’s going to be exciting for him and pretty scary, because for the first time he’s got a chance of losing everything he’s worked hard for.
Jenna: Shiming is working with Freddie Roach already and I’m wondering if you think having a trainer that is so highly regarded adds extra pressure on him?
Foreman: I think he’s got too much pressure on him because you got that Olympic identification now you got Freddie Roach people expecting too much, and I don’t like boxers to have that much pressure, but he’s got it, and he’s going to have to deal with it, it’s a lot of pressure no doubt about it.
Jenna: What’s the biggest change going from amateur boxing, to the professionals?
Foreman: The most change is the number of rounds you move from the amateur and then in professional they got so many rounds and you’re in there with slick pros who’ve seen it all and they know how to beat you. They understand it doesn’t happen in 1st or 2nd rounds sometimes they just get you in the 3rd or 4th round that’s the big difference, you’ve got to be totally prepared.
Jenna: Alright, well I want to change things now to the current scene of boxing, and get your thoughts on the biggest change that happened in the last few months. Manny Pacquiao was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, and people still talk about the impact they think that will have on his career. You having suffered a devastating defeat at the peak of your career, how do you think Pacquiao will handle coming back from this loss?
Foreman: The one thing about it is, if you get defeated, especially by a knock-out, it’s a physical thing that happens to you, not a whole lot of psychological disadvantages but physically you’ve got to heal inside. Pacquiao is well trained he is always in good condition, so the healing process is sped because of that. But like I said I was shamed in Africa, and I came back 22 years later to be the heavyweight champion of the world. But I actually came back and made number 1 contender even 2 years after I lost, so all the odds are in his favor to become champion again.
Jenna: What do you think Pacquiao will accomplish when he does comeback?
Foreman: I think that he has a goal now to get that title, walk around the ring with that belt and travel back to his country and make everybody so happy and proud of him. Then there is nothing else to achieve, one thing the bad thing about us boxers and ex-boxers is we always over stay our welcome in this sport.
Jenna: George, you once said that Pacquiao does not need Mayweather in his life. Do you still think that, and if Pacquiao does win another title and is offered a Mayweather fight, do you think he should take it?
Foreman: Not at all, and I think he should just go back and forget about all of his past opponents forget about all of his let downs, and go back and decide, look I want to be the champion of the world again, without any name or any opponent or preconception of any opponent. Go back and win the title, because his legacy will not be decided on a name of his opponent, but on his accomplishment. Forget about everybody and get that title. Make your friends and family proud and walk away from the sport.
Jenna: Let’s turn things to another popular Filipino boxer, that being Nonito Donaire. What are your thoughts on him?
Foreman: Donaire is a great fighter, he’s already proven that he can get in the ring with the best of them, no more uphill battles now all he has to do is stay in shape and his time is perfect and they got nothing but title matches in front of him-and wins. He is one of the best out there.
***Special thanks goes out to Tim & Ruben for helping me to bring this article to the boxing readers.
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