The first biography of the heavyweight boxing champion, preacher, and celebrity pitchman who fought his way out of urban poverty and through the venal world of prizefighting to make it in America.
Olympic gold medalist. Two-time world heavyweight champion. Hall of Famer. Infomercial and reality TV star. George Foreman’s fighting ability is matched only by his acumen for selling. Yet the complete story of Foreman’s rise from urban poverty to global celebrity has never been told until now.
Raised in Houston’s “Bloody Fifth” Ward, battling against scarcity in housing and food, young Foreman fought sometimes for survival and other times just for fun. But when a government program rescued him from poverty and introduced him to the sport of boxing, his life changed forever.
In No Way but to Fight, Andrew R. M. Smith traces Foreman’s life and career from the Great Migration to the Great Society, through the Cold War and culture wars, out of urban Houston and onto the world stage where he discovered that fame brought new challenges. Drawing on new interviews with George Foreman and declassified government documents, as well as more than fifty domestic and international newspapers and magazines, Smith brings to life the exhilarating story of a true American icon. No Way but to Fight is an epic worthy of a champion.
- Prologue: Crossroads
- 1. Fruits of the Fifth Ward
- 2. Corpsman’s Call
- 3. God Bless the Puncher
- 4. Eatin’ Money
- 5. Sculpting George Foreman
- 6. Better Must Come
- 7. I Ain’t No Dog
- 8. Superman’s Evil Twin
- 9. Man without a Country
- 10. To the Mountains of the Moon
- 11. I Don’t Run ’Cause I Don’t Have To
- 12. You Got to Have a Boss
- 13. A Gangster’s Game
- 14. Jesus Rode on a Jackass
- 15. Man of La Mancha
- Epilogue: Unscripted
“Unquestionably, [Smith] did his homework, including research into declassified government documents, and he takes readers to far-flung locales, including Zaire in 1974 or the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle' with Muhammad Ali…students of the sport will find plenty to chew on.”
“Comprehensive…[Smith's] analysis reaps insights and dispels misconceptions, bringing forth little-known details about the great fighters of Foreman's era.”
“A compelling glimpse into the career of a true American success story.”
“[A] well-researched account…Foreman fans and those who remember his Rumble in the Jungle will enjoy this adept look at the champion's life inside the ring.”
“Andrew Smith's compelling biography of George Foreman illuminates how "Big George"--the man and the myth--shaped the history of boxing and popular culture. Smith deftly reconstructs the public and private lives of a fighter who reinvented himself time and time again. No Way but to Fight is a powerful story about race, class, and violence in America, a revealing portrait of the redemption of a man searching for a life beyond the confines of the "Bloody Fifth" Ward of Houston.”
Johnny Smith, Georgia Tech, co-author, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X
“George Foreman comes to life in Andrew R. M. Smith’s definitive biography. Based on deep research and a treasure trove of interviews, No Way but to Fight tells the fascinating story of Foreman's rise to the top of the boxing world, his navigation of the post-Civil Rights era, and his path to becoming the Foreman Grill pitchman. This is an important contribution to our understanding of sports and race in the United States, and it’s a page-turner to boot!”
Ryan Swanson, University of New Mexico, author of The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the Modern Athlete
“Andrew Smith has written a superb account of George Foreman's life and career. Utilizing a vast array of primary and secondary sources, Smith astutely chronicles Foreman's story from his early days in the Fifth Ward of Houston up through his many victories in the prize ring and enormous success as a television personality. In the process, we gain important insights into Foreman's complicated personality and the often cruel and unforgiving world of boxing.”
David K. Wiggins, David K. Wiggins, George Mason University, author of More than a Game: A History of the African American Experience in Sport