The Rumble in the Jungle

The Rumble in the Jungle

The Rumble in The Jungle was a boxing match pitting then world Heavyweight champion George Foreman against former world champion and challenger Muhammad Ali that took place on October 30, 1974, in the Mai 20 Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).

The event was Don King's first venture as a professional boxing promoter. He managed to get both Ali and Foreman to sign separate contracts saying they would fight for him if he could get $5 million to be their prize. However, King did not have the money. So he began looking for an outside country to sponsor the event. Zaire's flamboyant 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.

Build up to the Fight

In 1967, Ali had been suspended from the sport of boxing for three and a half years following 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, and 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 and into the top ranks of professional heavyweights. Foreman was greatly feared for his punching power, size, and sheer physical dominance. Still, Joe Frazier and his promoters believed that despite Foreman's ever growing list of knockouts and victories, that he would be too slow and unrefined to stand up to Frazier's relentless attacks. This would turn out to be a grave miscalculation, as Foreman won the championship in grand fashion by knocking Frazier down six times in two rounds before the bout was stopped. Foreman further solidified his hold over the heavyweight division after he demolished Ken Norton, who was the only man besides Frazier at that time to defeat Ali, also in two rounds. (In the process, Norton broke Ali's jaw.) Although by the time that Ali and Foreman met Ali had avenged his losses to both Norton and Frazier, Foreman seemed an overwhelming favorite against Ali.

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

The Rumble

Ali started the first round attacking Foreman. This was notable, as Ali was famed for his speed and technical skills, while Foreman's raw power was his greatest strength; close range fighting would, it seemed, inevitably favor Foreman and leave too great a chance that Ali would be stunned by one or more of Foreman's powerful haymakers. Ali made use of the right-hand lead punch (striking with the right hand without setting up with the left) in a further effort to disorient Foreman. However, while this aggressive tactic may have surprised Foreman and it did allow Ali to hit him solidly a number of times, it failed to significantly hurt him. Before the end of the first round, Foreman caught up to Ali and began landing a few punches of his own. Foreman had also been trained to cut off the ring, preventing 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. Almost right away in the second round, Ali started lying on the ropes and letting Foreman punch him, without any attempt to attack Foreman himself (a strategy Ali later dubbed the rope-a-dope).

As a result Foreman spent all his energy throwing punches (in oven-like heat), 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 thrown by the champion. This loss of energy was the key to Ali's "rope-a-dope" technique.

Ali seemed to do little to resist, except to occasionally shoot straight punches to the face of Foreman. (This quickly began taking a toll on Foreman's face and it was soon visibly puffy.) When the two fighters were locked in clinches, however, Ali consistently outwrestled Foreman, using tactics such as leaning on Foreman to make Foreman support Ali's weight, or holding down Foreman's head by pushing on his neck, a move which is both disorientating and which can heighten the effect of punches, since it causes a greater snap in the neck when a fighter is hit in the head, and which subsequently increases the chances of a knockout. Ali also constantly taunted Foreman in these clinches, telling Foreman to throw more and harder punches, and an enraged Foreman responded by doing just that.

After several rounds, this caused Foreman to begin tiring. As Foreman's face became increasingly damaged by the occasional hard and fast jabs and crosses that Ali threw, his stamina looked to be draining from him. The effects were increasingly 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 much of that round. Although he would keep throwing punches and coming forward, after the fifth round Foreman was very tired and 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."

Finally in the eighth round, Ali landed the final combination, a left hook that brought Foreman's head up into position so Ali could smash him with a hard right straight to the face. Foreman staggered, then twirled across half the ring before landing on his back, unconscious.

Some argue this to have been among the greatest demonstrations of strategic planning and actual execution ever displayed in a heavyweight fight. Ali came into the fight with a tactical plan, executed it and achieved a great triumph.

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.


Foreman and Ali became friends after the fight. Ali had trouble walking to the stage at the Oscars to be part of the group receiving the Oscar for "When We Were Kings", a documentary of the fight in Zaire, due to the fact he has Parkinsons. George Foreman helped him up the steps to receive the Oscar.

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

Cultural influence

The fight has had 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" (2002) depicts this fight as the film's climax. In addition, Norman Mailer wrote a book ("The Fight") describing the events, and placing them within the context of his views of black American culture.

In the made for TV movie, "Don King: Only in America" which aired on HBO the build up to the fight, as the manoeuvers that King had to perform to set it up is largely depicted. Also there are numerous scenes which show the way Ali gain the favor of the people of Zaire.

George Plimpton covered this fight for Sports Illustrated and it is featured in detail in his book Shadow Box.

Ali was a very endearing figure to the people of Zaire, and his mind games played out well, turning the Congolese people in his favor and against Foreman. A popular chant of theirs leading up to, and during the fight was "Ali bomaye!", 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.

The historical fiction novel The Poisonwood Bible mentions this event.

Johnny Wakelin wrote a song about this match called "In Zaire".

The Fugees also wrote a song about the event with A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and Forté titled "Rumble in the Jungle".

In the 1982 movie "Rocky III", Rocky uses a strategy similar to rope-a-dope in his rematch with Clubber Lang (Mr. T).

The Hours also wrote a song about the event titled "Ali In The Jungle"

In 2002, the fight was ranked first in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

The incident was covered in an episode of ESPN Classic's "The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame...", examining reasons why people shouldn't blame Foreman for losing.

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. [ [ Ali's gloves and robe] ]


External links


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