Anniversary for Jungle Rumble
Believe it or not, it's been 44 years since the infamous boxing event between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. Known worldwide as the "Rumble in the Jungle", the event allowed Ali to regain the Heavyweight Title.
George Foreman(or "Big George) was the absolute favorite to win, coming into this match undefeated. His record? 40 wins(37 of them by knockout), and NO losses. He was 25 years old. His opponent? Muhammad Ali, with a record of 44 wins(but only 31 by knockout) and two losses. Ali was 32. But he was hungry and looking for a comeback.
Foreman and Ali both spent the middle of 1974 training in Zaire so that their bodies could get accustomed to the tropical climate. In fact, the fight was initially scheduled for September 25, but Foreman suffered a cut near his right eye during a training session with his sparring partner and the fight was pushed back a month to October 30. And the fight was scheduled for 4 am local time in order to appear on live television in the Eastern Time Zone of the U.S. at 10 pm.
The promoter of the event was Don King who did everything he could to promote the fight including putting together a three-night-long music fest, "Zaire 74". The event featured such performers as James Brown, The Spinners, Manu Dibango("Soul Makossa"!!!), B.B. King, Bill Withers and many more.
Starting in Round 2, Ali introduced a new boxing strategy, the "Rope-A-Dope". Basically, Ali let Foreman punch him repeatedly for several rounds while Ali leaned on the ropes and covered up. Foreman could really only get in body and arm punches which didn't cause much damage to Ali. Foreman spent most of his energy on a large number of punches that didn't earn him any points while Ali took every opportunity to throw punches to George's face. This "Rope-A-Dope" strategy worked just as Ali thought it would. Foreman continued to tire and right before the end of the eighth round, Ali took him down and won by a knockout.
There were 60,000 people in attendance at the event and it was watched by a record(at the time)of 1 billion estimated television viewers. It was a major upset(I think George Foreman was favored at 4 to 1) and has been consistently named one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th Century. And, interesting side note, though they hated each other at the time, Ali and Foreman later became the best of friends. Get out your tissues....In 1996, the documentary of that legendary fight and it's cultural impact was released titled "When We Were Kings"(a fascinating watch, by the way). That movie won a well-deserved Oscar. Ali(who by this time had severe Parkinson's disease) had trouble walking to the stage to be part of the group accepting the Oscar and George Foreman helped him up the steps to the stage. Truly an uplifting moment.
And "Rumble in the Jungle"? Truly a boxing bout for the ages. Happy Anniversary!