Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rumble In The Jungle

On Oct. 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali defeated George Foreman in eight rounds to win the world heavyweight title. The fight took place in Zaire and was dubbed the Rumble in the Jungle. The fight was famous for the promotional tour by both fighters. It also marked a return to glory for Ali after he had been suspended for dodging the draft.
The event was one of Don King's first ventures as a professional boxing promoter. He 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, King did not have the money, so he began looking for an outside country to sponsor the event. Zaire's 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. King had pulled together a consortium that included a Panamanian company called Risnelia Investment, 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, it is Hemdale and Video Techniques Inc. with whom King was a director, who were the official co-promoters of the fight.
Ali began the first round by attacking Foreman with unconventional (and provocative) 'right-hand leads'. This was notable, as Ali was famed for his speed and technical skills, while Foreman's raw power was his greatest strength; 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, and 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 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 (this quickly took a toll on his face, which was soon visibly puffy), and 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, he 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 he kept throwing punches and coming forward, after the fifth round Foreman 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, near the end of the fight, Foreman slammed Ali with a thundering body blow, and Ali whispered to him "Is that all you got, George?" to which Foreman thought "Yep...that's about it." After that, Ali began to dominate Foreman.
As the fight drew into the eighth round, Foreman's punching and defense became ineffective as the strain of throwing so many wild shots took its toll, and Ali pounced as Foreman tried to pin him 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 him to stumble to the canvas. Foreman did get up, but not before being counted out by referee Zack Clayton.
The fight showed that Ali was capable of taking a punch and also 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,[4] he remained Champion until 1978, when he was dethroned by Leon Spinks. He regained the title for an unprecedented third time after beating Spinks in a rematch. However, his later comebacks proved less successful 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 he (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 Dunne. However he would repeatedly state that his rematch with Foreman was one of the major fights he wanted to get to before retiring.) 10 years later, Foreman made an unlikely comeback, culminating in him regaining the world heavyweight championship at age 45 — at that time, the oldest man ever to win the title.