George Foreman is the latest Hall-of-Fame boxer to have his life story turned into a Hollywood film.
Unlike the recent Hulu series Mike, there is no drama surrounding this project. Actor Khris Davis (Judas and the Black Messiah, Atlanta) takes on the arduous task of portraying the heavyweight champion in the George Tillman Jr. directed film Big George Foreman.
Cassius Life spoke with Khris Davis about becoming Foreman and, in doing so, undergoing some dramatic changes body-wise. It’s no secret that Foreman’s weight fluctuated when he was in his boxing prime and then as he retired and unretired. Davis revealed everything we see is real and that he opted not to wear a prosthetic suit when it was offered.
“That is real. I didn’t have a nutritionist until it was time for me to gain the weight. So getting into shape was just me and my coach, Daryl Foster, talking about nutrition, looking at my body, deciding how big we wanted shoulders to be or whatever, ” Davis told Cassius Life.
I didn’t want to wear a fat suit. It wasn’t an option. They were talking about it. But I had already at that point, well, that I wasn’t going to gain the weight.
“And we were shaping to make it as close to Mr. Foreman’s body as we possibly could at the time. And to also make sure that matching up to the other fighters in the film, I wasn’t losing the integrity of Big George, right? Because I am heavier than George Foreman was. And I think George Foreman at his heaviest in his early career, the weight that he was, which is about 225, I was that weight when I was 17.”
“So I had to figure out how to vacillate between weight and that way, and then I ended up gaining 50 pounds for the later years.”
Davis continues, “I didn’t want to wear a fat suit. It wasn’t an option. They were talking about it. But I had already at that point, well, that I wasn’t going to gain the weight. But with all of the sacrifices that we were making when it came to the fights when it came to filming, I definitely was going to do it now. I already gave too much already, so there’s no looking back. So I gained the weight. I ate 7,000 calories a day and gained 50 pounds in five weeks. Went from 225 to 275, and I think at my heaviest I was 282.”
The film tells the well-known story of George Foreman’s early life as a poor kid who grew up in a religious home and on the mean streets of Houston, who was constantly picked on for his tattered clothing and ignored by him his teachers. That treatment led to Foreman using his anger to do the talking, and that got him in trouble.
Foreman would eventually fall in love with boxing after being introduced to it by his mentor, the legendary Doc Broadus (Forest Whitaker), during his time at the Job Corps.
Broadus, a boxing savant, saw something special in Foreman, who possessed tremendous raw untapped power and taught the young man how to harness it positively in the boxing ring.
Foreman’s career took off after winning the gold medal in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when he was just 19 years old. When he returned home, he quickly realized the gold medal wasn’t enough. His people deemed him a sellout because he wasn’t standing in solidarity with fellow Black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who famously raised their fists in protest during a medal ceremony.
Foreman, at that moment, decided to turn pro and embark on a mission to become the world’s heavyweight champion. At the time, the title holder was Joe Frazier, who defeated Muhammad Ali. Foreman, at the time, did something Muhammed Ali couldn’t do and knocked out Frazier in the second round of their 1973 bout to become the heavyweight champion for the first time in his career.
Big George Foreman Is A Story About Overcoming Challenges
Ali, who Sullivan Jones brilliantly portrays in the film, would go on to hand Foreman his first professional loss and take his title in the iconic Rumble in The Jungle bout. Foreman would retire for the first time following a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 after having an a near-death experience that helped him find his connection to his faith.
Foreman would go on to become a preacher and neighborhood mentor. Still, financial challenges pushed him back into the ring, and he would do what many deemed impossible and win the heavyweight championship for a second time, becoming the oldest heavyweight champion at the age of 45 after defeating a 26-year-old Michael Moorer.
There were moments where I really thought that that was it for me, that I wasn’t going to make it, that maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I don’t have what it takes, maybe whatever.
We asked Davis if there was a moment during his acting career when he had to overcome a challenge or if there was ever a point where he questioned his faith or spirituality.
“Yeah, man, all the time. And I think the better question is, does that ever stop? Are you ever not being challenged in a way that makes you question it? And can you actually have faith if it’s not being challenged, if you’re not questioning it? And does faith exist if you’re not questioning it if you’re not saying, “Is it real?,” Davis said.
“You have to have faith in something that you can’t see that essentially is not real, right? It’s like you can’t touch it. It’s just in my head. Is it in my head? Is it in my heart? And that’s what faith is. And my faith has been challenged quite a bit doing acting.”
He continues, “There were moments where I really thought that that was it for me, that I wasn’t going to make it, that maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I don’t have what it takes, maybe whatever. Many times I’ve left auditions with my tail between my legs. There were years where I didn’t work for most of the year on a play. I just did odd jobs and had tons of them. So yeah, man, that happens quite a bit. And I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s over. I pray that it doesn’t happen again. I pray that I’m not challenged that way in my life any longer, but if it does happen, I know how to be grateful and balance myself at this point.”
You can watch our full interview with Khris Davis above and see Big George Foreman now playing in theaters.
Photos: Sony Pictures
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