‘I Found Jesus’: George Foreman Says 1977 Near-Death Experience Changed His Life

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Updated Apr 13, 2023
‘I Found Jesus’: George Foreman Says 1977 Near-Death Experience Changed His Life

Pastor and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman is opening up about his life and a 1977 near-death experience, saying he wants people who watch an upcoming movie about him to know there is a “living God” and “I’m proof of it.”

Foreman, 74, is the subject of the faith-focused biopic Big George Foreman, which stars Khris Davis (Space Jam: A New Legacy) as Foreman and Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Doc Broadus, Foreman’s trainer. It releases in theaters April 28.

Foreman famously won the heavyweight championship at age 24 and then again at age 45 to become the oldest title holder in history. But it was a near-death experience in between those two titles that transformed his life and led him to become a pastor, he says.

That life-changing experience took place in 1977. By then, he had lost his first title (to Muhammad Ali in 1974) and was trying to claw his way back to another heavyweight championship fight. Foreman, though, lost that ‘77 bout to Jimmy Young.

Foreman was full of pride, he says.

“I was in the dressing room … walking back and forward and saying, ‘I don't care about this boxing match I lost. I'm still George Foreman.’ You know, I can win this [next match] and I got my movie career, I got my money in the bank. And I could go home and retire now and die. That sneaked into my conversation – ‘die.’ And I couldn't get it out. All of a sudden I faced death, and I knew I was about to die,” Foreman told Christian Headlines. “So with that in mind, I heard a voice within me say, ‘You believe in God, why are you scared to die?’ And I was afraid – I really was. And I started fighting to keep my life in me. I eventually lost the fight.”

Foreman said he died in the dressing room that night but God brought him back to life. The moment is portrayed in the movie Big George Foreman.  

“I was gone out of this life. Above me, under me, all around me was nothing,” Foreman told Christian Headlines of his near-death experience. “The most sad thoughts that you can even come to mind – multiply it. I was in a dump yard of nothing and sorrowfulness. … I remember thinking there was no hope for me – like someone had dropped me out in a sea. There was no land.”

At that moment, Foreman said he cried out, “I still believe there's a God!” Suddenly, “a hand reached in and pulled me out of nothing and death.”

“I was alive [and] breathing in that dressing room,” Foreman said. “... [I] fought eight men to get into the shower. I started screaming, ‘Jesus Christ has come alive in me’ after I saw blood on my head and hands. … They couldn't stop me. I started kissing everybody in the dressing room. I tried to make a break for the door. They said, ‘George, you don't have clothes on.’ They had to hold me down. … I got a second chance to live.”

Foreman’s doctor began holding his hand. Foreman said he cried out, “Move your hand, because the thorns on His head are making Him bleed.”

It was a Road to Damascus moment, although Foreman says now, laughing, “Really at that time, I didn't even know about Damascus.”

Foreman quit boxing, began preaching and opened a youth center. When he ran out of money for his ministry in the late 1980s, he started boxing again, winning his second heavyweight title in 1994. 

Foreman told Christian Headlines he wants the movie to inspire the audience. 

“The most important thing I'd like for the people who go to the movie to take out is that there is hope. … There's a living God,” Foreman said. “And I'm proof of it. That's all – forget about the boxing and the winning and the losing and all of that. Faith in God is what that movie is about.”

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Roger Kisby / Stringer

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.