Talking Boxing, Watches, And Life Outside The Ring With Three Heavyweight Legends
On the occasion of Hublot’s “Night of Champions” we sat down with three boxing champions George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, and Lennox Lewis. Let’s get ready to rumble!
During Hublot and the World Boxing Council's (WBC) Night of Champions, we were able to sit down with three heavyweight champions of the world. Five decades of boxing history were represented, and each champ had a unique story to tell.
Hublot and WBC’s “Night of Champions”
Since 2012, the WBC’s José Sulaimán Boxer’s Fund in partnership with Hublot has provided much-needed support for retired boxers with financial and medical adversities. Every year, the fund partners with Hublot for a massive gala dinner and live auction at the Wynn Las Vegas. This year’s fete was attended by some of the biggest legends of boxing. Names such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, and Sugar Ray Leonard were on-hand to raise money for the foundation.
For this special evening, Hublot offered eight exclusive auction lots including the chance to give away the WBC championship belt to the winner of the following evening’s Canelo vs. Jacobs Middleweight World Championship fight. All-in-all, the evening raised a record of 1.2 Million dollars, we can say that the evening was a success! Last but not least, all boxing champions received the new Big Bang UNICO WBC in green ceramic.
About the Hublot Big Bang UNICO WBC
Each of the 12 champions present was given a Hublot Big Bang UNICO WBC Chronograph. Released at Baselworld 2019, this piece has been created in two different editions. All models feature a green ceramic motif as a nod to the color of the iconic WBC championship belt, which most fighters will agree, is the highest prize a boxer can get.
The first edition comes encased in full green ceramic with a matte black skeleton dial. The second model packs a heavyweight punch via a rose gold case matched with green ceramic. It’s worth mentioning that proceeds from the sale of the Hublot Big Bang UNICO WBC will go directly to the WBC José Sulaimán Boxer’s Fund.
The Heavyweight Connection To Watches
Thanks to Hublot, Watchonista had the opportunity to sit down with three of the 12 legends present, and naturally, the conversation turned to watches. All three boxers had different tales about their connection with timepieces.
As the elder statesman of the group, George Foreman couldn’t hide his love and excitement for timepieces. His first watch was a Bulova Accutron for $150, which he later reluctantly gifted to his brother. “It broke my heart because I gave it to my brother - they stopped making the watches with the batteries - so I started collecting them all over the country. And when they heard I was collecting them, they went from $150, $250, $500. Crazy!”
Foreman had a unique story to tell about a Hublot that got away, a few years back at a Bonham’s WBC charity auction, George Foreman was outbid on a unique George Foreman WBC Chronograph. “There was this watch with my name on it. I was bidding until after it got over $100,000. At $110,000 I had to quit. Somebody wanted it more than me. I wanted that watch so badly. It was embarrassing, too, because I was thinking, "I can't lose. I'm George Foreman, and I can't let him think he got me." Then he [the auctioneer] said, "$110,000!" And I said...nothing. So not only did I lose the watch, I lost face. Man, that watch had my signature right inside!”
Five-time heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield reminded us of his humble first watch, “It was Timex! It could take a licking and keep ticking much like a championship boxer. I was just so glad to have a watch. In the neighborhood, people didn't have watches. I worked at the gas station and needed to be on time!”
Holyfield’s Timex days are over, and the boxer has a very close relationship with Hublot. In our interview, he was proudly showing off his new Hublot Big Bang UNICO WBC Chronograph. He confessed to owning many Hublot watches.
Lennox Lewis noted that his first watch was a Rolex, but he had a favorite watch in his collection, "I love my King Power WBC Lennox Lewis! They actually made one for me, and I couldn't be prouder.”
Fighting against time
All three champions have experienced the highs and lows that go with being in the ever-bright limelight of a heavyweight champion. Some moments are engraved forever in their memory. Fellow journalist Roberta Naas asked George Foreman was the longest moment of his life was. He replied,
“It would have to be my fight with Muhammad Ali. I followed him off the rope to get him. And, when I faced him, he hit me with a straight right hand. It didn't really hurt, but there I was on the canvas, and I looked up at my corner because that's what you're supposed to do, don't jump up, and they told me, "Stay down. Stay down," because they're supposed to count for you. And so, I thought, "Okay. Ooooone thooouusand-ooone, thooouusand-two." Then, Ali and I jumped up, and it was over, and I lost the title. What a long minute, it seemed like it lasted two hours. There's nothing like it, time.”
Boxing isn’t exactly a safe profession, as Evander Holyfield painfully recalled his famous fight with Mike Tyson, “When Tyson bit me on the ear I knew it was out of frustration. I knew that he was running out of time and getting ready to get knocked out and he didn't want it [to lose]. So, the referee told him that if he bites me again, he’d be out. When he bit me and saw how bad it hurt, he was excited, and he thought I was afraid. When the referee restarted the fight, I hit him right in the mouth, then he grabbed me again and bit me again cause he wanted to get out of there.“
Everyone Is Welcome In A Beetle
During our interview, George Foreman confessed to owning over a hundred watches. Foreman, 70, said that later in life he’s been attempting to get rid of a lot of the memorabilia collected after decades of in-ring and entrepreneurial success. Most from my generation know Foreman for his eponymous grill company, which he later sold for over 120 million dollars. I had to know, what was his most cherished possession? Hoping that with all the downsizing it would be a watch, his answer surprised me – Foreman said,
"It's my 1977 Volkswagen Beetle convertible! I have a lot of cars, but that thing stands up. Black with a black roof, I love that car. If you like cars, that is THE car- It's the only car I truly ever wanted and that I will never get rid of. I remember back in California, and there would be 7 of us in that Beetle going all the way up the hills to San Francisco. It was rough, but we made it. Everyone is welcome on a Beetle.”
Life after Boxing
Leaving the ring is the hardest decision a boxer can make. Some leave willingly, some leave out of frustration after a loss, and some simply stop booking fights. While our champions all had extraordinary careers, it was the camaraderie between the sometimes-former opponents that struck me the most.
Lenox Lewis jokingly said, “I feel great since no one wants to punch me in the head anymore!”. Still, he keeps great relationships with fellow champions as he added, “It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll outside the ring and Mr. Hyde inside the ring. And seeing everybody, we've already gone through all the trials and tribulations of who's the best. They know who the best is, so we have no problem with that. And we've all come through that type of background where we had to survive and go through hours of training trying to be the best we could possibly be. So, it's a small community, a fellowship, like brothers-in-arms.”
Forgiveness is part of the job it seems, as Evander Holyfield recalled, it was easy to forgive Mike Tyson after the famous bite. Growing up with nine brothers, he had to bite them to get rid of them and believed that Tyson did the same thing not to get thrown out.
A Great Cause
This comradery was on full display at that evening’s Hublot and WBC’s “Night of Champions.” The work that the WBC is doing to support former boxers, from all walks of life, not just the champions is inspiring. At our table was former boxer, Vinnie Paz, who gave his personal take on the WBC’s José Sulaimán Boxer’s Fund, “I wouldn’t be here without these people [the WBC], I’m walking proof this charity works. I just wish I would’ve won that [WBC] belt! It’s the only one I never won.”