Anniversary Post: The Rumble in the Jungle

The Rumble in the JungleOn this day in 1974 was The Rumble in the Jungle. It was the iconic boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Everyone expected Foreman to destroy Ali. Foreman was stronger and arguably as fast. But Ali seems to have developed his rope-a-dope strategy while in the ring. Using it, he managed to wear down Foreman, who collapsed in the eighth round.

I remember standing in a bookstore reading the introduction of a book about Muhammad Ali. It was written by George Foreman. Foreman talked about the fight. He said if he knew what he knows now, he thinks that Ali still would have figured out a way to beat him — that Ali was just that great and intelligent a boxer. All I could think was that Foreman was one class act. And he might well be right. But clearly they were both among the greatest boxers of all time.

Most of what I know about The Rumble in the Jungle comes from the film When We Were Kings. It’s well worth checking out if you get a chance. Most of it is not directly about the fight. There was so much going on around the fight — especially music. And the politics are well on display with all of the paranoia of the villain Mobutu Sese Seko.

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: The Rumble in the Jungle

  1. Great post, on a great fight. For some really good reading about the fight, and boxing in general, check out “Shadow Box” by George Plimpton. With guest appearances from many famous writers, including Norman Mailer – about three rows up you can see Plimpton’s and Mailer’s faces in shock when Foreman starts going down.

    About that fight – most folks think it was only the “rope-a-dope” strategy that Ali employed that beat Foreman, but it was more than that. Ali started out fast in Round 1 and pretty immediately was deadly accurate with his left jab. His speed for an “old” fighter surprised Foreman. Ali’s strength also surprised Foreman – Ali wasn’t small, either, coming in about 218 or so – and continuously would pull down on Foreman’s neck with his right arm during clinches. This helped to wear him Foreman down. Finally, the last 20 seconds of every round Ali would bound off the ropes and fire a slew of accurate punches at Foreman. Not only was Foreman exhausted by the eighth round – he we beat up!

    • Yeah, but I don’t think those left jabs helped him. I suspect that the fight delay helped Ali. Plimpton is a good writer. I’ll check it out.

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