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The Rumble in the Jungle

 

George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali - Oct. 30, 1974 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 8

The Rumble in the Jungle

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The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic boxing event that took place on October 30, 1974, in the Mai 20 Stadium, now the Tata Raphael Stadium, in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). It pitted the undefeated world Heavyweight champion George Foreman against former world champion and challenger Muhammad Ali. Ali won by knocking out Foreman in the eighth round.

The event was one of Don King's first ventures as a professional boxing promoter. He managed to get Ali and Foreman to sign separate contracts saying they would fight for him if he could get a $5 million purse. However, King did not have the money, so he began looking for an outside country to sponsor the event. Zaire's president Mobutu Sésé Seko asked for the fight to be held in his country, eager for the publicity such a high-profile event would bring. King had pulled together a consortium that included a Panamanian company called Risnelia Investment, the Hemdale Film Corporation, a British company founded by film producer John Daly and the actor David Hemmings, Video Techniques Incorporated of New York and Don King Productions. Although King is most closely associated with the fight, it is Hemdale and Video Techniques Inc. with whom King was a director, who were the official co-promoters of the fight.

Contents

Build-up

In 1967, Ali had been suspended from boxing for 3½ years for his refusal to obey the draft and enter the Army. In 1970, he first regained a boxing license and promptly fought two comeback fights, against Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena in an attempt to regain the heavyweight championship from Joe Frazier. The two met in 1971 in a bout dubbed the Fight of the Century. Frazier prevailed, which sent Ali into fighting other contenders for years in an attempt at a new title shot.

Foreman had quickly risen from his gold medal victory at the 1968 Olympics to the top ranks of professional heavyweights. Foreman was greatly feared for his punching power, size, and sheer physical dominance. Still, Frazier and his promoters believed that despite Foreman's ever-growing list of knockouts and victories, he would be too slow and unrefined to stand up to Frazier's relentless attacks. This proved to be a grave miscalculation, as Foreman won the championship by knocking Frazier down six times in two rounds before the bout was stopped. He further solidified his hold over the heavyweight division by demolishing Ken Norton, the only man besides Frazier at the time to defeat Ali, also in two rounds. Though Ali avenged his losses to Norton and Frazier in the years since, at 24 the younger and stronger Foreman seemed an overwhelming favorite against the 32-year old Ali.[1]

Foreman and Ali spent much of the summer of 1974 training in Zaire, getting their bodies acclimated to the weather in the tropical African country. The fight was originally set to happen in September, but Foreman was injured and cut near his eye during training, pushing the fight back to October 30.

The three-night-long music festival Zaire 74 took place as scheduled, September 22-24, including performances by James Brown, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Bill Withers, The Crusaders, and Manu Dibango as documented in the 2008 film Soul Power.[2]

The fight was set to begin at 4 am local time in Zaire so that it could be seen on closed-circuit television live in the Eastern United States at 10 pm.[3]

The fight

Ali began the first round by attacking Foreman with unconventional (and provocative) 'right-hand leads'. This was notable, as Ali was famed for his speed and technical skills, while Foreman's raw power was his greatest strength; it seemed that close range fighting would inevitably favor Foreman and leave too great a chance that Ali would be stunned by Foreman's powerful haymakers. Ali made use of the right-hand lead punch (striking with the right hand without setting up the left) in a further effort to disorient Foreman. However, while this aggressive tactic may have surprised Foreman and allowed Ali to hit him solidly a number of times, it failed to significantly hurt him, and before the end of the first round, Foreman began to catch up to Ali, landing a few punches of his own. Foreman had also been trained to cut off the ring and prevent escape. Ali realized that he would tire if Foreman could keep making one step to Ali's two, so he changed tactics.

Ali had told his trainer, Angelo Dundee, and his fans that he had a secret plan for Foreman. As the second round commenced, Ali frequently began to lean on the ropes and cover up, letting Foreman punch him on the arms and body (a strategy Ali later dubbed the rope-a-dope). As a result, Foreman spent his energy throwing punches that either did not hit Ali or were deflected in a way that made it difficult for Foreman to hit Ali's head, while sapping Foreman's strength due to the large number of punches he threw. This loss of energy was key to Ali's "rope-a-dope" tactic.

Meanwhile, Ali took every opportunity to shoot straight punches to Foreman's face (this quickly took a toll on his face, which was soon visibly puffy), and when the two fighters were locked in clinches, Ali consistently out-wrestled Foreman, using tactics such as leaning on Foreman to make Foreman support Ali's weight, and holding down Foreman's head by pushing on his neck. He constantly taunted Foreman in these clinches, telling him to throw more punches, and an enraged Foreman responded by doing just that.

After several rounds of this, Foreman began to tire. His face became increasingly damaged by hard, fast jabs and crosses by Ali. The effects were visible as Foreman was staggered by an Ali combination at the start of the fourth round and again several times near the end of the fifth, after Foreman had seemed to dominate that round. Although he kept throwing punches and coming forward, after the fifth round Foreman looked increasingly worn out. Ali continued to taunt him by saying, "They told me you could punch, George!" and "They told me you could punch as hard as Joe Louis." According to Foreman, near the end of the fight, Foreman slammed Ali with a thundering body blow, and Ali whispered to him "Is that all you got, George?" to which Foreman thought "Yep...that's about it." After that, Ali began to dominate Foreman.

As the fight drew into the eighth round, Foreman's punching and defense became ineffective as the strain of throwing so many wild shots took its toll. Ali pounced as Foreman tried to pin Ali on the ropes, landing several right hooks over Foreman's jab, followed by a 5-punch combination, culminating in a left hook that brought Foreman's head up into position and a hard right straight to the face that caused Foreman to stumble to the canvas. Foreman did get up, but not before being counted out by referee Zack Clayton.

The fight showed that Ali was capable of taking a punch and highlighted his tactical genius, changing his fighting style by adopting the rope-a-dope, instead of his former style that emphasized movement to counter his opponent. Film of the Zaire fight shows Foreman striking Ali with hundreds of thunderous blows, many blocked, but many others getting through. Foreman mostly struck to the sides and kidney region, but also landed some vicious shots to the head, seemingly with no effect.

This fight has since become one of the most famous fights of all-time because it resulted in Ali, against the odds, regaining the title against a younger and stronger Foreman. It is shown several times annually on the ESPN Classic network. After this fight, Ali once again told the world he was the greatest. A year later Ali won an epic battle with Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila. Although his skills and reflexes deteriorated noticeably in later bouts,[4] he remained Champion until 1978, when he was dethroned by Leon Spinks. Ali regained the title for an unprecedented third time after beating Spinks in a rematch. His later comebacks proved less successful, however, and he was beaten by Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981.

Despite repeatedly calling Ali out, Foreman was unable to secure a rematch with the champion before Foreman abruptly decided to retire after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977. Ali did not hurry to set up a rematch, making title defenses against unheralded opponents such as Jean Pierre Coopman and Richard Dunn. However he would repeatedly state that his rematch with Foreman was one of the major fights he wanted to get to before retiring. Ten years later, Foreman made an unlikely comeback, culminating in him regaining the world heavyweight championship at age 45 — at that time, the oldest man ever to win the title.

Reactions

Foreman and Ali became friends after the fight. Ali had trouble walking to the stage at the 1996 Oscars to be part of the group receiving the Oscar for When We Were Kings, a documentary of the fight in Zaire, due to his Parkinson's disease. George Foreman helped him up the steps to receive the Oscar.

Foreman openly made fun of himself on the British quiz show A Question of Sport.

Legacy

The fight is one of Ali's most famous, the other being the Thrilla in Manila in 1975.[5] The Rumble in the Jungle remains a large cultural influence. The events before and during this bout are depicted in the Academy Award winning documentary, When We Were Kings. The biographical movie Ali (2001) depicts it as the film's climax. In addition Norman Mailer, who had been part of the press corps sent to cover the event, wrote a book, The Fight (1975), describing the events, and placing them within the context of his views of black American culture. George Plimpton was also part of the press corps, covering the fight for Sports Illustrated. He later featured it in detail in the book Shadow Box (1993). Hunter S. Thompson was also sent to cover the event, for Rolling Stone magazine, though according to TIME Magazine, Hunter "chose to float in his hotel pool, a bottle of hooch in hand, while the great fight took place, and he was unable to file anything."[6]

The HBO made for TV movie entitled Don King: Only in America, depicts the build up to the fight and the maneuvers that King had to perform to set it up as well as numerous scenes which show the way Ali gained the favor of the people of Zaire.

Ali was a very endearing figure to the people of Zaire, and his mind games played out well, turning the Congolese people in his favour and against Foreman. A popular chant of theirs leading up to, and during the fight was "Ali bomaye!", which means "Ali, kill him!"[7] In addition, the events surrounding the fight, such as its musical acts (BB King, the Fania All Stars and James Brown amongst others), added to its cultural impact.

Several songs were written and released about the fight: Johnny Wakelin wrote a song about the match called "In Zaire", the Fugees also wrote a song about the event with A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and John Forté titled "Rumble in the Jungle", and The Hours wrote a song about the event titled "Ali in the Jungle".

The incident was covered in an episode of ESPN Classic's The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame..., which argued that Foreman should not be harshly judged for losing the fight.

The gloves and robe worn by Muhammad Ali in this fight are part of the collections of National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.[8]

On the April 30, 2011 edition of ABC's Winners Bracket, the Rumble in the Jungle was named the greatest moment in the history of ABC's Wide World of Sports.

Game (rapper) released the album Jesus Piece with a track called Ali Bomaye referencing to the fight

References

  1. ^ Anderson, Dave (1973-09-12). "The greatest is now The Tiredest". The Miami News. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  2. ^ Scott, A.O. (2009-07-10). "Music and Musicians Still Echo 35 Years Later". The New York Times.
  3. ^ The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book
  4. ^ Anderson, Dave (1984-09-23). "For Ali, What Price the Thrilla in Manila?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
  5. ^ Dixon, Tris (January 8, 2012). "Muhammad Ali: 'The Greatest' at 70". CNN. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  6. ^ Richard Schickel (July 3, 2008). "The Mixed Pleasures of Hunter S. Thompson". Time. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  7. ^ "What they said about Muhammad Ali". BBC Sport. 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  8. ^ Muhammad Ali's Gloves and Robe - Smithsonian Institution

External links

 

 

Author:Bling King
Published:Mar 8th 2013
Modified:Mar 8th 2013

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