On October 30, 1974, one of the most infamous boxing matches took place in what was billed as the "Rumble in the Jungle." It was on this day that George Foreman defended the heavyweight championship of the world against Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire.
This boxing match was moved outside the United States because Don King lacked the funding which was to pay $5 million for both fighters.
This was King's first venture as promoter, and he eventually worked out a deal with Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko to hold the fight in Zaire because he knew the high publicity it would bring to his country. Both fighters spent the summer training in Zaire so that they could get used to the tropical weather conditions.
It was during this time that Ali used his mind games to win over the Congolese people as his popularity became evident during this fight. Originally, the fight was scheduled for September, but was pushed back because of an injury and cut to Foreman. The fight was rescheduled for October 30.
Foreman became heavyweight champion when he knocked down Joe Frazier six times in two rounds to win the belt in 1973. Foreman, a gold medal winner at the 1968 Olympics, had then dominated Ken Norton in a title defense, too.
Ali, a 1960 Olympic gold medal winner, had lost to Frazier in their 1971 match which eventually gave Foreman a shot at the heavyweight title. Ali had also lost Norton, but he avenged the losses to him and Frazier which allowed him the chance to face Foreman. Foreman was dominant and had dismantled the two fighters that once beat Ali, so it appeared the champion would be able to retain his title without much trouble. But Ali had a gameplan.
In the opening round of the bout, Ali came out attacking the power-punching Foreman. This allowed Ali to get some solid punches in on Foreman, but it didn't do much to stun him. Foreman eventually cut off the ring to prevent Ali from escaping his punching power. This strategy would have tired Ali out, so he had to change his gameplan.
In the second round, Ali began using the famous rope-a-dope style. Ali hung onto the ropes while letting Foreman punch away at him. This strategy was odd considering Foreman's power had overwhelmed his previous opponents. But Ali had a granite chin, and had taunted Foreman to hit him. Ali occasionally threw straight punches to the face of Foreman, and he used other means to tire down the champion.
Foreman was consistently clinched with Ali in the ropes or in the middle of the ring which led him to carrying the challenger's weight along with his own. Ali had also told Foreman to punch harder and more often which he did do. However, the effects of this resulted in the champion tiring out in the middle rounds. Ali used his speed and covered up to absorb many of Foreman's punches.
Foreman's face had also been damaged with the rope-a-dope technique by the punches that Ali threw sparingly enough to throw off the champion. Ali staggered Foreman with a combination in the early part of the fourth round as the champion was showing more signs of fatigue.
By the fifth round, Foreman looked as if he won that round. But Ali hit him with some combinations that continue to stun Foreman. It became more and more apparent that Foreman was out of energy in the sweltering heat of Zaire.
Finally in the eighth round, Ali landed a combination that put Foreman down on the mat. It started when he nailed Foreman with a left hook which enabled Ali to hit him with a hard, straight right-hand to the face. Foreman staggered before falling unconscious on his back. Ali had knocked out Foreman in eight rounds to become heavyweight champion again.
Many historians have said that the strategy by Ali was the best gameplan any fighter has ever used in boxing history. The fact that Ali had a chin to absorb the punching power of Foreman was as big as him wearing down the champion was an advantage. Foreman tirelessly hit Ali was strong punches, but this fight above any proved just how much Ali could take.
Because of Ali winning the heavyweight title from Foreman, this led to a third and final match with Joe Frazier the following year in the famous "Thrilla in Manila" bout in the Phillippines.
Ali and Foreman became friends after this fight. In 1996, it was Foreman who helped an ailing Ali that had trouble walking to the stage when his group accepted an Oscar for the documentary When We Were Kings which was based on the fight in Zaire.
Because Ali had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease years earlier, Foreman helped him up the steps to the stage in order to receive the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary is widely acclaimed and received critical praise by most of the media.
This fight has consistently been shown on ESPN Classic, and is also considered by many to be one of the top sporting moments in history.
Photo courtesy of Antiquities of the Prize Ring
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