On October 30, 1974, "The Rumble in the Jungle", a historic boxing event, was held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). 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, the former heavyweight champion. The event had an attendance of 60,000 people. 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". It was a major upset victory, with Ali coming in as a 4–1 underdog against the unbeaten, heavy-hitting Foreman. The fight is famous for Ali's introduction of the rope-a-dope tactic. Here is a colorful Muhammad Ali in an interview promoting the fight:
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 (September 24 in the United States due to the difference in time zones). However, eight days prior to then, Foreman was cut above his right eye by an accidental elbow thrown by his sparring partner Bill McMurray in a sparring session. This required Foreman to receive 11 stitches, with the date of the fight pushed back to October 30.
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 punch him several times in the head, it failed to significantly hurt him. Before the end of the first round, Foreman began to catch up to Ali, landing punches of his own. Foreman had 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.
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. The 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. Here are the highlights the fight broken down by rounds:
Foreman and Ali became close 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. Foreman helped him up the steps to receive the Oscar.
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