By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Former world heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman is helping out a small Limerick youth club in what the priest who runs it describes as a "fairy story."
Father Joe Young, who founded the Limerick SC soccer academy for disadvantaged youngsters 10 years ago, met Foreman by chance in a restaurant in the U.S..
The priest had attended the Jerry Cooney-George Foreman boxing match and, after Foreman won in two rounds, he went to have a Coke in a restaurant with his friend George Kimbell, the Boston Herald sports columnist.
Foreman came in and Kimbell introduced them.
"Foreman had eight double cheeseburgers and we got talking about kids.," Young said. "I was just fascinated by the fact that a man of his age was still boxing.
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"I thought it was crazy. He is 50 now and his next fight is against Larry Holmes on Jan. 5."
Foreman, a Baptist minister, was champion in 1973-74 and retired in 1977. He returned to the ring 10 years later and defeated heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the title.
While they were in the restaurant, Kimbell learned that his wife was quite ill.
"George said to me, ‘You’re a priest. I’m a minister, let’s pray over him,’ " Young recalled. " My small was clasped by his and he started praying and I just sat in awe. As a result of that he has kept in touch and developed an interest in the kids here".
Young, who said his cash-strapped club helps kids passed over by the Celtic Tiger welfare system with a mixture of soccer, boxing, athletics and music, has now be promised some funding from Foreman and a visit from the champ may follow next year.
Young says the money is not the important thing.
"The great thing is that he is even thinking about these kids in what is the middle of nowhere as far as he is concerned," the priest said. "I am looking forward to him coming as at least the kids can say that if they put in the effort now maybe they will still be doing it when they are 50."
The club is in an area with 80 percent unemployed. The priest has made several visits to the U.S. and sang for the late Rose Kennedy in 1992 during his first visit.