Today we are joined by Andrew R. M. Smith
, author of No Way But To Fight: George Foreman and the Business of Boxing
(University of Texas Press, 2020). In our conversation, we discussed Foreman’s career, the role of race in American sports, and how boxing helped give rise to athletic mega-events.
In No Way But To Fight
, Smith traces the intersections between Foreman’s life, the racial politics of sports during the Civil Rights era, the intensification of boxing’s commercialization, the complexities of black masculinities, and the internationalization of sports mega-events. He 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.
Although Smith's work proceeds chronologically, it focuses heavily on Foreman’s first boxing career, the period between Foreman’s Gold Medal fight in 1968 to his defeat in 1977 to Jimmy Young. Based on a close reading of newspaper articles, advertising materials, and interviews with the boxer, he paints vivid pictures of the snapshots of Foreman’s life. The pugilist pursued different strategies throughout his career in and outside of the ring – some more sensible than others such as not drinking water the day before a fight. He also showcases the way fighting created pathways for a young man from one of Houston’s roughest neighborhoods to achieve global fame and fortune.
No Way But To Fight
will appeal to readers interested in the links between money, race, and prize fighting in the United States.