June 12, 1995 12:00 PM

by George Foreman and Joel Engel

In the opening pages, Foreman tells about overhearing an argument between his wife and 10-year-old son. “I’m not going to wear those [pants],” Little George said. “I don’t want to look poor.” Investigating, Foreman found the pants to be a pair of clean, neatly pressed, if faded, jeans. Suddenly he realized that “my boy had no idea what poor really meant…I’d never bothered to explain to him where I’d come from.”

By George is Foreman’s fascinating act of reparation. It follows his rise from Dickensian beginnings in Houston’s “bloody” Fifth Ward—where he and his four siblings “mended holes in our shoes with cardboard”—to his winning the heavyweight championship in 1973, only to lose it to Muhammad Ali. The book’s second half traces Foreman’s transformation from the bully shaped by the hunger and anger of his childhood into the affable, bald-pated gaffer who mainlines hamburgers, preaches the gospel and KOs men half his age.

Foreman spins his wonderful tale with characteristic humor. Mounting his late ’80s comeback, Foreman, who had put on 100 lbs., tried to slip into his old boxing togs. “Man,” he told his wife, “this stuff has shrunk!” (Villard, $23)

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