Arguably the Greatest Sporting Event of the 20th Century – The Rumble in the Jungle

The Rumble in Jungle is a famous fight between the Legendary Muhammad Ali (a former heavyweight champion) and George Foreman, who before the match was an undefeated World Heavyweight Champion. The heavyweight championship match happened on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo). The boxing fight is hyped as one of the most significant sporting events in history. Read on to find out reasons that led to the fight, the legacy the fight left and the aftermath of both great boxers.

One of the Greatest Sporting Figures of All Time

Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer. Ali is one of the most influential and celebrated sports icons of the 20th century.

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In this photo taken on October 19, 1974, shows US boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (L) (born Cassius Clay) 11 days before the heavyweight world championship in Kinshasa. On October 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in a clash of titans known as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, watched by 60 000 people in the stadium in Kinshasa and millions elsewhere. Photo credit STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

As at the time of the fight, he was banned from boxing in 1967 for three years and was stripped of his world title because he refused to be drafted into the US military. During the time of his ban, Ali became an African-American civil activist and philanthropist. Ali was 32 years old and had lost the speed and reflexes he had when he was younger. Many people believed the former champion had no chance of winning his contest with George Foreman. Ali died at 74 years old after battling Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years.

The Two-Time World Heavyweight Champion

George Foreman is a former American Boxer. He is a two-time world heavyweight Champion and an Olympic gold medallist. Before the fight, Foreman was one of the best in the sport, defeating Joe Frazier and Ken Norton and claiming two heavyweight champions.

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In this photo taken on October 25, 1974, shows US boxing heavyweight champion George Foreman training five days before the heavyweight world championship in Kinshasa. Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images

George Foreman was much feared for power in his punch and his body size. Asides boxing, he is a successful entrepreneur, a minister, and an author.

Why the Event Was so Special?

The fight was initially tagged “From the Slave Ship to the Championship!” by promoter Don King. However, Zaire’s president heard and ordered all posters burn down. It was the first heavyweight championship match staged in Africa. It was also sponsored by the president of the West African republic (Mobutu SeseSeko) who promised to pay 5 million dollars each to the fighters if they show up. The fight was staged to showcase the rich and beautiful natural resources of Africa to the world.

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(Original Caption) Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman heavyweight title bout. Slide shows Ali (white trunks) leaning back while Foreman leans forward.

Muhammad Ali saw the fight as a way to establish a relationship between black Americans and Africans, eliminate racial issues and Vietnam. A music festival (Zaire 74) which lasted three nights was held to promote the fight. The festival featured artists like James Brown, Celia Cruz, and the Fania All-Stars, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Bill Withers, The Crusaders, and Manu Dibango.

The Big Fight

On October 30th, 60, 000 people were gathered at dawn to watch the fight at the Stade du 20 Mai. Before the fight, Ali had been making a jest of Foreman.

The big strong man couldn’t just wait for the bell so he could unleash all his anger on Ali. Before getting to the venue of the fight, Ali watched a horror movie titled Baron Blood. When the bell finally rang, Foreman began to hit Ali with Jawbreaking blows.

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Muhammad Ali (far left) knocks George Foreman (far right) onto his back during the eighth round of their world heavyweight title boxing match in 1974.

To survive this, Ali developed a strategy right there in the boxing ring….he would later call it the “rope-a-dope” tactics. The key to this tactic was to make Foreman lose energy. Ali started to lean on the ropes and let Foreman come at him. Foreman punches at Ali was either blocked or dodged. By the fifth round, Foreman began to wear out. His punches were not as powerful as they were during the first round. The eight round saw Ali leave the ropes. He started to release a series of right hooks on the already tired Foreman, followed by a 5-punch combination and hard right-handed punch that knocked Foreman to the ground. At the rise count of 8, the referee ended the fight. Ali regained the heavyweight title.

The Aftermath

After the match, the rains poured down, but that did not stop the celebrations. It was a win-win situation for the Africans who were out celebrating Ali’s Iconic win as well as the exposure of Africa’s beauty to the world.

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ZAIRE, AFRICA – OCTOBER 30,1974: Muhammad Ali lands a left hook knocking out George Foreman during the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight at the Mai 20 Stadium on October 30,1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire. (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)

Foreman couldn’t bear the fact that he lost. This made him want a rematch with Ali which he did not get. As time passed, Ali and Foreman became friends. Now, Foreman is happy to be part of the greatest boxing match ever staged. Foreman soon became a minister and was preaching in the streets of US. He is also a rancher in Texas and a father of 10 children. Although Ali lost the title after another match, he regained it again before he retired in 1981. Meanwhile, Foreman retired in 1977 but continued to train. In 1987, he became the oldest heavyweight champ in boxing history.

What the Event Meant for All

As for Ali, winning the boxing fight was the beginning of a change in the relationship between America and Ali. Being an underdog, coming back from exile, being old and yet winning the fight meant more to the people of America than political and racial issues.

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American professional boxer George Foreman, the world heavyweight champion, is down on count two after being knocked out by Muhammad Ali in the fight dubbed ‘The Rumble in the Jungle,’ Kinshasa, Zaire, October 30, 1974. (Photo by Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

On the night of his win, he was seen doing rope tricks for a group of African kids. The fight was also broadcast live in several closed-circuit venues across the world. There were about 50 million viewers of the match. In the United States, the fight generated about $60 million to $300 million. Ali and Foreman were also paid 5 million dollars each after the event.

The Legacy of the Event

The Rumble in the Jungle is one of Ali’s famous fights alongside with his great fight with Joe Fraizer. The fight remains a large cultural influence. The match inspired many people all around the world that a book called “The Fight” was written in remembrance of the event. “Rumble in the Jungle” is one of the thousand things that Ali will be remembered for.

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TO GO WITH AFP STORIESIn this photo taken on October 30, 1974 shows US boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (C) (born Cassius Clay) during a press conference after the heavyweight world championship in Kinshasa. Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images

Ali was also known for the incredible impact he made in the world both socially and politically. Boxing provided a platform where Ali helped effect change. He died with a legacy that might not be matched ever again.