Q&A: George “Monk” Foreman III
George Foreman is a humble man. “I just want to train people,” he says with hope, as if his famous name has nothing to do with the 15,000 sq. ft. gym he’s opening in December in Boston’s trendy Fort Point neighborhood. “The beauty is that all the old school boxing gyms were in warehouses, so we are bringing it back,” he says when describing the new spot.
The space really is amazing. Nestled amongst the old brick warehouses near the Channel Center, the unassuming spot blends in perfectly with the rest of the block. But with luxury condos going up all around it, Foreman won’t have a problem finding his new clientele. Especially because in addition to boxing conditioning classes, the gym will also house a yoga studio, juice bar, saunas, luxury locker rooms with full towel service, not-to-mention provide original classes like, “boxing yoga.”
How did you get into boxing?
Well, [two time heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist] George Foreman is my father. I grew up in a boxing family. I grew up in a boxing gym. We opened our family gym the year I was born, back in 1983. And the funny thing is, I never took a boxing workout seriously until I was 24-year-old.
Really? That’s surprising. Why 24?
I participated in my father’s training camps from 8-years-old on. I would count his rounds. I was the only person he’d let stretch him out. I’d follow him during his roadwork, and even carry his ax when he’d chop wood. But I never boxed until I was 24. I was overweight… more than 280 pounds, you know, a couple of weeks shy of 300. That’s how it all started for me. My brothers were teasing me. I got all the Georges on a conference call and told them I’m going to get in shape.
All the George’s? How many are there?
At the time there was Jr, the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th. I’m the third.
Must have been confusing growing up.
We didn’t even know that our real name was George until we went to school. Everyone called me “Monk.” We all had nicknames. Inside the house, there’s only one person that responds to the name George, and that’s my dad.
How did your dad get involved with the grills?
When [the inventors] first approached [my dad] with the grill, he turned it down. He was used to getting money up front to be in a commercial. You show up, shoot the commercial, and go home. It’s better than a fight, he’d say, because you don’t get hit. So the guys with the grill told him they would give him equity, and my dad was like, “equity, schmequity, give me my money.”
But, my mother started using the grill to cook his steaks and asparagus. One day she asked my dad if he could get another one. She told him that it worked great and made it easier for her to cook him four meals a day. So he went back to [the inventors] and said he’d get involved because he wanted 16 grills.
Seriously? He did the commercials at first for 16 grills?
Yup. Enough for training camp, reinforcements in shortage, and one for my grandmother. And that was what got him over the hump to do the deal, just 16 grills can you believe that? They gave him about half the company. He didn’t think much of it at the time. And then obviously it sold… well, a lot.
A lot. About six years ago, we had sold more than 100 million units. Sales are estimated somewhere more than $3 billion. The grill was great because it also helped a lot of bachelors and young ladies learn how to cook for themselves.
What do you love about boxing?
Boxing is the best workout there is. With all these new trends, workouts, and diets like the Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, the gluten-free diet… I’d watch my dad eat that way my whole life. Boxers have been doing this for more than 100 years. If it doesn’t swim or it doesn’t fly, don’t eat it. Dad had these old school rules.
Do you have to also lift weights?
No, never. My dad would never let me touch weights. We never lifted. He said you have to use your body all at once and use it as one machine. That’s called functional training. He’s say you have it build the muscles above your knees, and below your shoulders, that’s called your core. That’s what the whole boxing workout was about, and then you’d just go to the gym to sharpen up for a fight. But it was real strength training. Chopping wood, digging holes, it’s all about building the core.
When did you become convinced that boxing was it for you?
I studied the old boxers. They were well-tuned athletes. And then you look at the new school and you see how many injuries there are. There is no other sport where the relationship between the trainer and the athlete is closer than boxing. The trainer has to want to see the boxer succeed. It’s about more than hitting the bag, its about your overall health and diet, hydration, and sleep. Everything is important. Your weight, speed, timing, attitude. And learning how to think under pressure. There are things that help people in real life. And so there is no other sport that combines all those things.
That makes sense, like carrying your workout over into your everyday life.
And a great boxing gym is a community. Being part of a community is important and my gym is all about being hangout. They may not like you at work, home can also have problems, so you need that third place between work and home where it’s all about making yourself better. Being a part of a community where it’s all about you is better than any medicine.
What exactly is boxing yoga?
Boxing yoga is yoga with boxing postures to stretch and lengthen the muscles that you use in a boxer’s workout. It’s a great way to build core strength and teach you how to hold postures that are important when fighting. It’s hard to learn that in the ring when someone is throwing punches at you. So why not do it in a tranquil yoga room. More than anything its just fun.
What workout best compliments boxing?
I think the best workout that compliments a boxer is Pilates. Joe Pilates was a boxer. It works. Pilates is all about the powerhouse [the abs, lower back, hips, pelvic floor, and glutes]. That’s what we train for when we are outside the ring; we are trying to build up the powerhouse. Also, ballet and barre exercises. My dad took ballet in the 70s.
He did? That’s awesome.
He didn’t like to tell people that. He was having problems his back and it strengthens his back muscles. In the 70s, he was considered the most feared person in sports, and there he was was sneaking into the barre room.
Why did you choose Boston?
I picked Boston because I went to prep school in the area when I was young, and knew I liked the state. When I did my research, I discovered Boston is a fighting city. You guys have that attitude. Whether you’re a model or a construction worker, if need be everyone will fight you in a second. Plus, Boston takes its fitness seriously.