When people get into the ring with George Foreman, they feel his wrath.
It’s been bubbling up inside of him as long as he can remember. When he sees how hard his mother, Nancy, works, it makes him angry. When his mother splits one hamburger between him and his siblings for their dinner, it makes him irate. And when she makes them wait so she can praise God for providing that measly little burger, well, that makes him mad, too.
“Heavenly Father,” she begins, “thank You for this food. You know exactly what this family needs. The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. Amen.”
That may work for Nancy. But the truth is … George does want. He wants a lot—money, fame, respect. And God’s seemingly indifferent attitude towards his family makes him furious. If God isn’t going to provide for them, then George will.
And provide he does. With the help of Coach Doc Broadus, he’s able to channel his anger into the boxing ring, knocking out opponent after opponent. Pretty soon, he’s got everything the world has to offer, and neither he nor his family will want for any material possession ever again. Take that, God.
But don’t mistake God’s immediate silence for His approval. If George wants to fight God, well, God’s calling George to step into the ring with Him. And while George may be boxing with the best, God’s record remains undefeated.
Ding! Round one. Fight.
This film showcases George’s remarkable personal journey from poverty to success, from fame to failure, from despair to redemption. The first half focuses on George’s rise to the top, while the second half shows how God humbles him before giving him that shot at redemption in the ring once more.
George’s coach, Doc, acts as a reforming, almost fatherly figure to the boxer, helping him to redirect his anger into boxing as an outlet for it. It’s not long before George rises to the top, due in large measure to Doc’s influence on his life.
Despite her discomfort with George’s occupation, George’s mother continues to support him and give him guidance, hoping that he will eventually come to belief in Jesus.
Growing up in poverty, George is baffled at how his mother, Nancy, can praise God when he believes God has done little for them. Every path George takes, he believes that he is the one who chose it, and so he feels that if anyone deserves praise for where he is, it’s him, and not God.
For example, Nancy praises God when they share a hamburger. In a similar scene later, George retorts, “God? I bought the food, mama.” And when George questions what God has to do with where he is, Nancy rebukes him. “Don’t tell me you’ve gone so far from home; you don’t know what God’s got to do with your life?”
But George’s success starts to run dry. He loses his heavyweight champion status to Muhammad Ali. His wife leaves him in divorce. But the final straw is when his sister, Mary, is on the verge of losing her baby while giving birth in the hospital. The family begins to pray for a miracle, and George breaks down in a desperate prayer, too.
“Alright,” George starts, “here I am. What did my sister ever do to You? You gonna take her baby? Answer me! All my life I’ve been hearing about You, and You ain’t never show me nothing. I ain’t seen anything. You wanna take somebody? Take me!”
[Spoiler Warning] Mary’s baby survives. Soon after that, George suddenly collapses in a locker room, dead. He finds himself in a dark void, where he pleads with God: “I don’t want to die! I believe, I believe!” And so George is thrust back to life, telling the incredulous faces around him that Jesus Christ is alive in him. He gets baptized and gives his testimony to a church. He takes up street preaching. Later, he purchases a church and begins preaching there.
Doc doesn’t understand how George could trade boxing for preaching. And when George returns to the sport to raise money, Doc hopes that George can simply “turn the beast back on,” believing that George’s anger was what helped him win in the ring. The born-again boxer, however, has left that anger behind him. And while Doc doesn’t seem to fully understand how George has lost his anger, he still agrees to help him in his comeback. In one of his conversations with Doc, George tells his coach, “It’s like He reached inside of me; just took out all my anger.”
George’s wife additionally tells him that she had a dream she felt was a vision from God: that he would win the heavyweight championship again in order to “lift Him up in front of millions of people.”
After George becomes a Christian, an immediate change is evident in his life. He intentionally seeks out people who he knows he has wronged to apologize to them, and he begins sharing his faith with people on the street. He purchases a rundown church and pursues ministry. He additionally uses his money to create the George Foreman Youth & Community Center, a recreation center for children.
When George tells Muhammad Ali that he’s found Jesus, Muhammad quips, “I did not know He was lost.” Muhammad’s Muslim faith does not come up in the film. Someone else quips, “Last I checked, lying was a sin.” We hear a couple verses read: Romans 12:9 and James 1:12.
We obviously see shirtless boxers. A couple of women wear dresses that accentuate their figures or bare cleavage. George kisses his wife during their wedding ceremony.
It’s suggested that George has an adulterous relationship. A woman somehow gets access to his hotel room. And when George returns after a post-win party, she’s sitting on his bed in a revealing dress, waiting to seduce him. The scene fades away, but it’s clear that an intimate encounter followed. Later, George’s wife, suspicious that he’s been cheating on her, asks, “How many have there been?” They separate shortly after that.
We see George in the shower from the shoulders up.
We see many intense boxing matches, and some boxers end up bloodied. A couple of knockout blows send blood flying out of the mouths of George’s opponents.
Someone gets slammed against a wall and choked. George shoves a man to the ground and attempts to rob him. A young George punches a bully, giving him a bloody nose. George punches through a door and dangles a thief out a window before someone puts a stop to it. George collapse at one point, apparently dead.
We hear one use each of “h—,” “d–n,” “p-ss” and “crap.” God’s name is abused on a couple occasions. Someone sarcastically exclaims, “Praise Jesus!”
Doc smokes a couple of cigarettes. George drinks alcohol. George’s friend, Desmond, has an addiction to alcohol, and we see him drinking often; he appears somewhat intoxicated in one scene.
While hiding from the police, George covers himself in sewage to mask his scent from a pursuing police dog. George and Desmond make a joke about beans and flatulence. George vomits.
A teacher ignores young George’s desire to read for the class after she sees his dirty and hole-filled shoes; instead, she picks another, better-dressed child to read. Students also make fun of George for not being able to afford food.
Our testimonies can be difficult. They expose the sin in our lives before we came to Christ, and they can reveal those things we regret most of all.
But these stories of spiritual growth aren’t meant to induce pity parties; they’re meant to show the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. They show how God has redeemed us from our sinful ways to walk in new life with Him. Though we will still struggle with sin in this life, our testimonies point to the reality that God has the power to save us, and that salvation turns us away from doing evil deeds. It’s a truth that is so beautifully expressed in Ephesians 2:1-10.
The dramatic biopic Big George Foreman depicts one such testimony. This boxing movie tells us how George Foreman went from angry boxer hostile to the things of God to becoming a Pentecostal minister who would rather put a smile on your face than a fist in your gut.
Like all of our testimonies, this one has some messy moments. We see the ruthless way George dealt with his opponents in the ring. We see the suggestion of an adulterous affair. And we see some people treat George quite poorly because of the destitute conditions from which he came.
But those moments aren’t exaggerated like a mainstream movie might do. In fact, for a major motion picture, they’re actually quite tame. And their narrative purpose is to show the change in George’s disposition: from one focused on his own glory to one focused on the Lord’s.
Among 2023 releases Jesus Revolution, Southern Gospel and the upcoming movie Unsung Hero, the ring is packed with potential contenders for Christian movie of the year. Only time will tell whether they can take on the heavyweight champ, Big George Foreman.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”