“It’s like a piece of me slipped away…I call it the greatest piece”. As the world mourns the death of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, George Foreman is still coming to terms with the passing of the ‘Greatest of All Time’.
Three-time world heavyweight champion Ali died aged 74 on Friday after more than three decades battling Parkinson’s disease.
Foreman knew him better than most after their historic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974.
Regarded as one of Ali’s most famous and culturally influential fights, the American overcame the previously undefeated world heavyweight champion Foreman following a knockout before the end of the eighth round in Kinshasa, Zaire – now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The pair formed an unbreakable bond after that night, evident at the 1996 Academy Awards when Foreman helped Ali up the steps to receive his Oscar.
And it is a friendship Foreman holds dearly in his heart.
“What a tremendous man…I keep seeing his face like it hasn’t happened,” the 67-year-old said in an interview with Omnisport.
“We had this wonderful friendship. It’s like a piece of me slipped away as well. I call it the greatest piece.
“What he did for the world was spectacular. I called him a good fighter but I didn’t apply greatness to him until I saw him light that Olympic torch [at the Atlanta Games in 1996].
“With his Parkinson condition, he went up there, though he had the tremor in his hand, and he was like ‘this is pretty, I’m still pretty’.
“He didn’t hide. When we get a little sickness, we hide, we don’t come back out in the public. But he made it fashionable to show off whatever illness you had.
“I’ve never seen a man who loved life more than Muhammad Ali.”
Reflecting on moments shared with Ali, Foreman – with a chuckle in his voice – said: “There are two memories that stand out, the second one the most important one.
“I’m mean, I’m giving him the stare down in the ring. We didn’t even have a press conference together or anything prior to the fight.
“We get up to the ring and we are in the middle of the ring, I’m giving him the stare down, he looks at me a little bit in the eye with a sly smile on his face and said ‘George you were in school when I was fighting Sonny Liston for the title, you don’t belong in the ring with me’.
“I almost busted out laughing at him. I thought are you crazy? I will never forget that. He was just a big kid.”