Tyson Fury will be back. The only fight fans will pay attention to is him vs Anthony Joshua, says George Foreman

BEFORE Tyson Fury, there was another heavyweight champ who charmed his way into a fortune and kept promising to hang up his gloves for good.

Like the Gypsy King, US fighter George Foreman was ridiculed for his ballooning weight, having scrapped his way to the top from the streets.

The ring legend fought Muhammad Ali in 1974’s era-defining Rumble In The Jungle.

He took a ten-year break from boxing before coming back in 1987, aged 38, to complete one of the most remarkable stories in sport.

Foreman stunned naysayers to become the oldest heavyweight champ the world had seen, just days before his 46th birthday, when he defeated 26-year-old Michael Moorer in the tenth round of their Las Vegas bout.

It was like something out of a Hollywood movie  — and now it is about to become one.

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A biopic titled Heart Of A Lion is in production and will remind the world that George, 73, should be remembered for far more than selling “lean, mean grilling machines”.

The Texan, who made a reported £120million from the George Foreman Grill, went from being a mugger to Olympic gold medallist, world boxing champ, ordained minister and five-times-married father of 12.

While Foreman says a rest would do the current champ good, he reckons it is unlikely Fury — who beat Dillian Whyte last month to retain his title — will follow through on his threat to quit.

A must-see clash with fellow British fighter Anthony Joshua would be worth as much as £100million.

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In an exclusive interview, George tells The Sun: “To get a new breath of life, he may need to take off a couple of years and enjoy retirement.

“But the fans are not going to pay any attention to any other fight until Fury and Joshua get into the ring.”

When Foreman burst on to the fight scene in the early Seventies he was described as mean and moody.

But he was a jovial figure and consummate performer by the time of his unlikely midlife triumph.

He says: “Fury has taken a page out of Ali’s book. He is the greatest show on earth.

“He loves what he’s doing. He has fun when he is training and when he’s in front of the microphone and the audience, a light comes on.”

Fury would recognise a lot of himself in Big George. The Texan had a tough start in life before finding purpose in the ring.

His father Leroy Moorehead left his mum Nancy when he was little and he was brought up by his stepfather JD Foreman.

Houston’s troubled Fifth Ward, where he grew up, was considered a ghetto, littered with boarded-up housing.

He says: “Everybody was rough in the neighbourhood. There were two roads, literally two sides on the street. One was all about trouble.

“The other was all about getting a good education and making something out of yourself in life.

“I was on the other side. It was rough because that’s the way I wanted to live.”

His was a wild youth, with George and his six siblings forced to fend for themselves.

He adds: “Mum and Dad broke up early, so there wasn’t a whole lot of supervision for me. I didn’t have a lot of confidence, and it took a lot of years and a lot of trouble to remove myself from that lifestyle.”

My life was going nowhere. I was a teenage delinquent. I was out on the street robbing and mugging people.

With great honesty, George admits to being a bully and a menace.

Looking back, he reveals: “I always fought. One of the schools I went to, I became a bully. Because once when someone tried to bully me, I decided I wanted to bully everybody.

“My life was going nowhere. I was a teenage delinquent. I was out on the street robbing and mugging people.”

A brush with the law after a theft led to Foreman choosing a different path at the age of 16.

He said: “My mum was really proud of me. She didn’t know what I was up to. Once, I climbed outside of the window of a house hiding from the police — and I said to myself I would never steal again.”

He signed up for a jobs programme that took him to California and the boxing ring.

Still imposing in his seventies at 6ft 3in, George added: “I met my first trainer, called Doug, who taught me how to box. That was a life-changing experience.”

He became a US hero by winning gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and turned pro a year later.

Foreman was expected to retain his title in his fight against Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974.

He had beaten fellow ring legend Joe Frazier the year before to seize the crown and seen off tough Ken Norton in March 1974.

He and Ali could not have been more different.

Ali, the jester, courted the world’s media while Foreman shunned interviews.

After one fight night I saw blood on my hands and forehead and I had cuts. I started screaming, ‘Jesus Christ, come alive!’ I became an ordained minister in the church of Lord Christ Jesus and for ten years I didn’t do anything else.

Ali’s cruel taunts meant there was real animosity between them when the opening bell rang.

Foreman tired himself out throwing countless punches while Ali stayed on the defensive, his “rope-a-dope” tactic destined to enter boxing folklore.

Ali later floored Foreman for the first time in his career, ending the fight in the eighth round.

There would be no rematch and Foreman became friends with Ali, who died in 2016 after long suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Foreman said: “When Muhammad Ali became ill, we already had a close relationship, but we got even closer.”

George took a year off from boxing after losing to Ali, before a short-lived return in 1976.

In 1977 he took such a beating at the hands of Jimmy Young, that Foreman feared he might die.

He asked God for help — and believes that his prayers were answered.

That year he retired from boxing for good and was then ordained as a Christian minister.

He says: “After one fight night I saw blood on my hands and forehead and I had cuts. I started screaming, ‘Jesus Christ, come alive!’ I became an ordained minister in the church of Lord Christ Jesus and for ten years I didn’t do anything else.”

But he admits: “I was broke and I told my family I was going back to boxing to earn money for my youth centre and to take care of my kids. They thought I was crazy. My wife didn’t want me to fight.”

By the time of his comeback in 1987 he was married to Mary Joan Martelly.

And they are still together, while none of his previous four marriages lasted longer than four years.

His five sons are all called George Edward — and one of his seven daughters is named Georgetta.

When Muhammad Ali became ill, we already had a close relationship, but we got even closer.

Of parenthood, George says: “I’ve raised many children. I don’t think anyone can say that I’ve been a failure with children.

“It’s a continuous growing thing. There’s no such a thing as a good father and bad father — you’re a father. And I love it.”

When he announced that unlikely return, Foreman weighed more than 21st, much of it flab.

He recalls: “Everybody laughed at me because I had ballooned. I had to fight my way to get into condition.”

Over the course of several fights, he got back into shape.

George claimed part of his success was down to healthy eating and he agreed to put his name to a “fat-reducing” grill.

That endorsement made him millions and allowed him to buy a 300-acre estate in Texas, where his collection of 40 luxury cars is parked.

A 1991 title fight against undisputed champ Evander Holyfield ended in defeat, although Foreman lasted the full 12 rounds.

He lost another title tilt two years later against Tommy Morrison.

And when new champ Michael Moorer opted to fight Foreman rather than Britain’s Lennox Lewis in 1994, only one winner seemed possible.

Moorer had beaten Holyfield, at 26 was 19 years younger than Foreman and proved faster for most of the fight.

Yet even at 45, George’s devastating punching power proved too much — and he knocked out Moorer.

It is a tale of a never-say-die underdog that promises to have audiences cheering when Heart Of A Lion hits cinemas next April.

The biopic stars Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker as George’s former trainer Doc Broadus, with Judas And The Black Messiah actor Khris Davis as George — and it is long overdue.

The subject of the film says with a smile: “If you live long enough you’ll see everything — even a movie about yourself.”

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