Heavyweight champ, entrepreneur George Foreman to visit campus Feb. 4

Student session, public panel discussion scheduled

Two-time world heavyweight boxing champion and internationally known entrepreneur George Foreman will visit KU on Feb. 4.

Foreman will take part in a panel discussion and book signing and visit with students in the McNair and Multicultural Scholars Programs while on campus.

George Foreman

George Kimball

Robert Rodriguez

The Heavyweight Boxing Symposium will take place at 7 p.m. at the Kansas Union ballroom. It is free and open to the public. Foreman will be joined on the panel by George Kimball, a renowned boxing journalist and KU alumnus, and Robert Rodriguez, associate director of KU’s McNair Scholars Program and lecturer in Latin American studies. Rodriguez, a boxing journalist, will begin the program with “A Heavyweight for the Ages: George Foreman,” a presentation about Foreman’s extraordinary life and boxing career. Rodriguez will incorporate his own photos and writings.

Kimball, a longtime boxing writer for the Boston Herald and author of the recently published book “Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing,” will follow with “The Last Great Heavyweight Rivalry: Ali, Frazier, Foreman and Norton,” a discussion of Foreman and great heavyweight boxers of the 1970s. Kimball’s book quickly became the best-selling boxing book in the United States, Great Britain and Ireland. Named one of the top 10 sports books of the year by the American Library Association, it is the subject of a documentary film currently in production. In 1986, Kimball was awarded the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism, the highest honor for boxing writers.

“He has covered most of the great boxing events of the past three decades,” Rodriguez said of Kimball.

Foreman will then present “From Heavyweight Champion to Knockout Entrepreneur,” an overview of his transition from a heavyweight boxer to a successful businessman. A short question-and-answer session will follow, then all three panel members will sign copies of their books. Oread Books will have copies for sale of Foreman’s “Knockout Entrepreneur,” Kimball’s “Four Kings” and “American at Large,” for which Foreman wrote the foreword, and Rodriguez’s “The Regulation of Boxing: A History and Comparative Analysis of Policies Among American States.”

Foreman first entered the public spotlight when he won the Olympic boxing gold medal in 1968. He won the heavyweight championship in 1973 with a knockout victory over Joe Frazier. He then lost the title to Muhammad Ali in 1974. In 1977, he retired and dedicated his life to his ministry. Foreman returned to boxing in 1987. In 1994, at age 45, he became the oldest man to win the heavyweight title when he knocked out Michael Moorer.

After his boxing career, Foreman perhaps became more famous for his invention, the George Foreman Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. The grills sold millions of units and spawned a whole line of related products.

Rodriguez, who organized a boxing symposium at KU for Hispanic Heritage Month featuring John Ruiz, the first Latino world heavyweight boxing champion, said he wanted to host a similar event during African-American History Month. He added that Foreman’s career longevity and duality compelled him to invite him to campus.

“When I ask students if they know who George Foreman is, they say ‘of course, he’s the grill guy,’ ” Rodriguez said. “But he had an extraordinary boxing career before that.”

While at KU, Foreman will visit with students in the McNair Scholars Program and Multicultural Scholars Program. The McNair program works to prepare low-income, first-generation college students and underrepresented minorities for doctoral studies. The Multicultural Scholars Program recruits students from underrepresented backgrounds for a variety of majors and provides resources and support for them to be successful students and professionals.

Foreman’s visit and the panel discussion are sponsored by the McNair Scholars Program, Multicultural Scholars Program, Institute for Educational Research and Public Service, Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity, Oread Books, Genovese Restaurant, the Oread hotel and Coca-Cola.

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