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No Way but to Fight

No Way but to Fight
George Foreman and the Business of Boxing

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.

Series: Terry and Jan Todd Series on Physical Culture and Sports

January 2020
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400 pages | 6 x 9 | 26 b&w photos |

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
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Andrew R. M. Smith
Woodstock, Connecticut

Smith is an assistant professor of sport management and history at Nichols College. Originally from Guelph, Ontario, he lives with his wife and daughters in Woodstock, Connecticut. Visit his website at:


“An insightful life study...Smith's captivating narrative suggests that Mr. Foreman is much more than the outsize roles he has played…[No Way but to Fight] makes it plain that the man who was once one of the rarest of power punchers is also one of those rare celebrities who seem to have learned from their vast experience.”
Wall Street Journal

“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.”
Foreword Reviews

“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.”
Library Journal

“[No Way but to Fight] will fill a need for information about all of Foreman's life story.”
All Sports Books

“Excellent…a superbly well-researched account of George Foreman's eventful life…This is a cracking story and while Foreman's life has been dissected before, Smith's account, which includes fresh interviews with the man himself as well as extracts from recently declassified government documents, rates as perhaps the best.”
Bristol Post

“[A] fascinating, colorful new biography…From an era when boxing's influence reverberated across the United States and the globe, to when Foreman became better known for his infomercials than what he accomplished in the ring, No Way but to Fight uses the boxer as a lens to show a changing society. Smith emphasizes Foreman's ability to reshape and adapt his image while also nothing the athlete's complexities. He writes of a boxer who ultimately triumphed in the most unvirtuous of sports.”
Texas Observer

“In No Way but to Fight, Smith…shows that from his upbringing in Houston's Fifth Ward to his role as a spokesman for the Foreman Grill, Foreman always fought to redefine himself along with the times. Smith's telescoping view showcases a Foreman that played with different personalities—including American patriot, soul man, and evangelical preacher—in order to achieve success at distinct stages of his life...No Way but to Fight will appeal to readers interested in the links between money, race, and prize fighting in the United States.”
New Books Network: Sports

“Smith’s major achievement is situating Foreman’s life in boxing within the broader social, economic and political dimensions of America and other parts of the boxing globe...[Smith] has a superb understanding of what happens both inside and outside the ring, and of the larger-than-life characters who strut boxing’s parade. He is also a master wordsmith, enlivening his analysis with wonderful turns of phrase. [No Way but to Fight] provides a masterful warts and all account of the life and career of George Foreman, and the dark arts of the world of boxing.”
Newtown Review of Books

“Biographies of heavyweight boxing champions have the potential to attract both a general and an academic readership. Andrew R. M. Smith’s accessible prose and narrative pace achieve this difficult balance, and his study of George Foreman provides important perspective in a market saturated by studies of Muhammad Ali.”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“Smith captures all [Foreman's] twists and turns in [No Way but to Fight]...Smith’s examination of Foreman is less of a straight biography than it is a look at the changing business of boxing from the 1960s to the 1990s, using his career as a lens through which to look at those shifts. This is a successful approach at points, particularly when looking at how the Job Corps helped set the stage for his boxing career and why so many of his major fights took place overseas. It provides a depth to the topic at hand and any reader is sure to learn a ton about the details of his life and career here...a certainly worthwhile and thoughtful read.”

“Smith skillfully details the intricacies of the business of boxing while chronicling Foreman’s boxing career. Both the sport management community and casual readers will find No Way but to Fight an engaging read...Like Foreman himself, No Way but to Fight has the potential for wide appeal...Sport management faculty members will find the book useful for the abundance of illustrative examples that can be gleaned from the book thanks to Smith’s meticulous research of Foreman’s career.”
Journal of Sport Management

“Smith has penned a fight saga that followers of the 'sweet science' of boxing will enjoy reading for its blow-by-blow detail of George Foreman's climb from amateur to two-time heavyweight boxing world champion.”
Journal of American History

“The chameleon-like nature of Foreman’s image makes him a slippery subject for a biographer, but Smith deftly charts the boxer’s evolution from his initial appearance in the limelight as the symbol of patriotic African American athletes at the contentious 1968 Olympics to the grandfatherly television figure of the early twenty-first century...An excellent account of both the public and private George Foreman...a strong monograph that deserves a wide audience in academia and beyond.”
Journal of Sport History

“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


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