The Rumble in the Jungle
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|Date||October 29, 1974|
|Venue||20th of May Stadium
|Title(s) on the line||WBA/WBC/The Ring/Lineal Heavyweight Championships
Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship
|Tale of the tape|
|Ali won by knockout in the 8th round (2:58) |
The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) on October 30, 1974 (at 4:00 am). Held at the 20th of May Stadium (now the Stade Tata Raphaël), it pitted the undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman against challenger Muhammad Ali, a former heavyweight champion; the attendance was 60,000. Ali won by knockout, putting Foreman down just before the end of the eighth round. It has been called "arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century". The event was one of Don King's first ventures as a professional boxing promoter.
Don King arranged this fight with the music businessman Jerry Masucci, who took his famed musicians, Fania All Stars, to play at the venue. King 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, as King did not have the money, he began seeking an outside country to sponsor the event. Zaire's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, eager for the publicity such a high-profile event would bring, asked for the fight to be held in his country.
King had pulled together a consortium that included Risnelia Investment from Panama; 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, Hemdale and Video Techniques Inc., with whom King was a director, were the bout's official co-promoters. The fight was broadcast on closed circuit television in theaters in the United States and on over-the-air television throughout the world. The play by play commentary was done by "Colonel" Bob Sheridan. Color commentary was done by Jim Brown, David Frost, and Joe Frazier.
In 1967, then-champion Ali was stripped of his title and suspended from boxing for 3½ years for his refusal to comply with the draft and enter the U.S. Army. In 1970, he first regained a boxing license and promptly fought comeback fights against Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena in an attempt to regain the heavyweight championship from the then undefeated Joe Frazier. In a bout dubbed the Fight of the Century, Frazier scored a unanimous decision, leaving Ali fighting other contenders for years in an attempt at a new title shot.
Meanwhile, the heavily muscled Foreman had quickly risen from a gold medal victory at the 1968 Olympics to the top ranks of professional heavyweights. Greatly feared for his punching power, size, and sheer physical dominance, Foreman was nonetheless underestimated by Frazier and his promoters, and knocked the champion down six times in two rounds before the bout was stopped. He further solidified his hold over the heavyweight division by demolishing the only man besides Frazier at the time to defeat Ali, Ken Norton, in two rounds. At 25, the younger and stronger Foreman seemed an overwhelming favorite against the well-worn 32-year-old Ali.
Foreman and Ali spent much of the middle of 1974 training in Zaire, getting acclimated to its tropical African climate. The fight was originally set to happen on September 25, but Foreman was cut near his right eye during training (by sparring partner Bill McMurray) and the date pushed back to October 30.
A three-night-long music festival to hype the fight, 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.
Ali was famed for his speed and technical skills, while Foreman's raw power was his greatest strength. Defying convention, Ali began by attacking Foreman with disorienting 'right-hand leads'. This was notable as 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. 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 (without earning points) 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 (which was soon visibly puffy). 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 Foreman kept throwing punches and coming forward, after the fifth round he 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: "I thought he was just one more knockout victim until, about the seventh round, I hit him hard to the jaw and he held me and whispered in my ear: 'That all you got, George?' I realized that this ain't what I thought it was."
As the fight drew into the eighth round, Foreman's punching and defense became ineffective as the strain of throwing so many wild shots had taken 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 at the count of nine[original research?], but referee Zack Clayton stopped the bout with two seconds remaining in the round. At the stoppage, Ali led on all three scorecards by 68-66, 70-67 and 69-66.
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, 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. Foreman later made an unlikely comeback, culminating in his regaining the world heavyweight championship at age 45 — at that time, the oldest man ever to win the title.
Foreman and Ali
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 (1996), a documentary of the fight in Zaire, due to his Parkinson's syndrome. George Foreman helped him up the steps to receive the Oscar.
Over the years, George Foreman revised his opinions on Muhammad Ali and on The Rumble in the Jungle, on several accounts. In 2012, The Telegraph reported Foreman's declaration: "We fought in 1974, that was a long time ago. After 1981 we became the best of friends. By 1984, we loved each other. I am not closer to anyone else in this life than I am to Muhammad Ali."  Foreman also stated: "Then, in 1981, a reporter came to my ranch and asked me: 'What happened in Africa, George?' I had to look him in the eye and say, "I lost. He beat me." Before that I had nothing but revenge and hate on my mind, but from then on it was clear. I'll never be able to win that match, so I had to let it go." Foreman eventually concluded, in 2003: "[Ali is] the greatest man I've ever known. Not greatest boxer that's too small for him. He had a gift. He's not pretty he's beautiful. Everything America should be, Muhammad Ali is."
The Rumble in the Jungle is one of Ali's most famous fights, ranking alongside 1971's Fight of the Century between the unbeaten former champion Ali and the unbeaten then heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, and the pair's final match, the Thrilla in Manila in 1975. The Rumble in the Jungle remains a large cultural influence.
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, boma ye!", which means "Ali, kill him 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.
- When We Were Kings (1996) is an Academy Award-winning documentary film that depicts the events before and during this bout.
- Don King: Only in America (1997) is an HBO made for TV movie which depicts the buildup 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 (2001) is a biographical feature film that depicts The Rumble in the Jungle as the film's climax.
Literature and print journalism
- Muhammad Ali discusses The Rumble in the Jungle in his autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story.
- Barbara Kingsolver's novel, The Poisonwood Bible (1998), includes a passage describing The Rumble in the Jungle taking place at the Stade du 20 Mai (20 May Stadium) while political prisoners were locked up downstairs.
- Norman Mailer was part of the press corps sent to cover the event and later 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 part of the press corps, covering the fight for Sports Illustrated, and later featured it in detail in the book Shadow Box (1993).
- Hunter S. Thompson was sent to cover the event for Rolling Stone magazine though, according to TIME magazine, Thompson "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."
The robe worn by Muhammad Ali in this fight are part of the collections of National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution together with a pair of gloves he used in training for the fight.
Several songs were written and released about the fight. For example:
- Orchestre G.O. Malebo, a Zairean band of the 1970s, composed the song "Foreman Ali Welcome to Kinshasa" in honor of the event.
- The Fugees wrote a song about the event with A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, and John Forté titled "Rumble in the Jungle" for the soundtrack of When We Were Kings.
- The Game wrote a song titled "Ali Bomaye".
- The Hours wrote a song about the event titled "Ali in the Jungle".
- Johnny Wakelin wrote a song about the match called "In Zaire".
- The incident was covered in a Season 3 episode[when?] 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.
- On the April 30, 2011 episode 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.
- "Foreman heavy favorite over Ali". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. October 29, 1974. p. 1-part 2.
- "Ali KO's Foreman in 8th". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. October 30, 1974. p. 1-part 2.
- Kang, Jay (2013-04-04). "The End and Don King". Grantland. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- Anderson, Dave (1973-09-12). "The greatest is now The Tiredest". The Miami News. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Scott, A.O. (2009-07-10). "Music and Musicians Still Echo 35 Years Later". The New York Times.
- The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book.
- "Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman: How Ian Wooldridge covered Rumble in the Jungle for Sportsmail". Daily Mail. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- "George Foreman On Ali". Shortlist.com. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
- "Rumble in the Jungle: the night Ali became King of the World again". Guardian. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Anderson, Dave (1984-09-23). "For Ali, What Price the Thrilla in Manila?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- "Rumble in the Jungle: 26 reasons we love Muhammad Ali's iconic clash with George Foreman in Kinshasa". Daily Telegraph. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- "George Foreman: I didn't want to be 'the champion', I wanted to be 'the 'man who beat Muhammad Ali'". The Telegraph. January 14, 2012. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- "An Interview with George Foreman". Counterpunch.org. 2003-09-07. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
- Dixon, Tris (January 8, 2012). "Muhammad Ali: 'The Greatest' at 70". CNN. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
- "What they said about Muhammad Ali". BBC Sport. 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2012-03-07.[permanent dead link]
- "100 Greatest Sporting Moments - Results". Channel 4. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
- https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/10/25/specials/ali-greatest.html. Missing or empty
- Richard Schickel (July 3, 2008). "The Mixed Pleasures of Hunter S. Thompson". Time. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
- "Muhammad Ali's Gloves and Robe". Smithsonian Institution.
- Kaufman, Gil (12 November 1996). "Fugees, James Brown & Others On Fight Film Soundtrack". mtv.com. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
- Ankeny, Jason. "When We Were Kings - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
- "Ali Bomaye by The Game feat. 2 Chainz and Rick Ross on WhoSampled". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2017-10-11.