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George Foreman Reveals How He and Muhammad Ali Became Friends

How the two became close after "The Rumble in the Jungle."

ByABC News
June 16, 2016, 10:15 AM

— -- Earlier this week, HBO's "The Fight Game" spoke with George Foreman for a tribute to the late, great Muhammad Ali.

The Champ died almost two weeks ago at the age of 74 after a 30-year battle with Parkinson's disease.

During his rein as "The Greatest," Ali famously knocked out Foreman in 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire, in a match that seemed like the end for Ali.

Foreman was unstoppable, but Ali pulled the rope-a-dope and waited for the big man to tire himself out before knocking him out in the eighth round. Foreman said he and Ali respected each other despite how their relationship was portrayed in the media.

Surprisingly, Foreman and Ali became great friends years later, long before Foreman was a household name with his books, grills and other endorsement deals.

Foreman told "The Fight Game's" Jim Lampley that his unlikely friendship with Ali started with a phone call years after their epic fight.

"I do not know how he got my number," Foreman said of the call he believed happened in the late 1970s. "He called and complimented me for about 20 minutes then he said, 'George, would you do me a favor?' I said, ‘Certainly.’ He said, 'Please come back and beat Ken Norton and fight him for me ... I can't beat him. George, you can. He's afraid of you. I'll let you use my training camp and everything but please come back and beat him for me.'"

Foreman said after that day the two were "best of friends."

"We starting talking on the telephone," he said. "He'd call me, I would try to run him down wherever he be. We had these religious conversations. His children also became good friends with my children. That is where the love affair began."

Ali was laid to rest last Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, as thousands of fans came out to pay their respects in his hometown.