On October 30, 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Champion George Foreman faced off against challenger Muhammad Ali. The undefeated Foreman was heavily favored. Yet, eight rounds later Ali raised his gloves in victory. How did Ali win “The Rumble in the Jungle?”
What was the Rumble in the Jungle?
By 1974, Muhammad Ali seemed by many to be past his prime. He barely beat Ken Norton in a split-decision in 1973. And although he defeated Frazier in early 1974, it took him twelve rounds to get the decision. By contrast, the devastating George Foreman took just two rounds apiece to knock out Norton and Frazier.
On October 30, Ali and Foreman met in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for the Rumble in the Jungle. The mental games had started weeks earlier. While Foreman kept to himself, Ali toured the country, ginning up support.
The Rumble in the Jungle: Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman
Prior to the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali spent a considerable amount of time bragging about how he was too fast for Frazier. Still, it came as a bit of a surprise when Ali roared out of the gate, sending a flurry of right-hand leads in Foreman’s direction. Although caught off guard, Foreman adjusted and began to fire back a few shots of his own.
Foreman probably expected Ali to continue a speed-based strategy. But everything changed during the second round. Halfway through Round 2 of the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali began covering up his face and leaning back against the ropes. His reasons were simple: he’d been slowed by the soft ring surface and Foreman was doing a good job cutting off the ring. There was a third reason as well…strategy.
Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy forced Foreman to focus on Ali’s midsection. However, loose ropes (some say they were loosened by Ali’s trainers) allowed Ali to better absorb the punches. Although Ali threw fewer punches, he timed them well and managed to land a few fast shots to George Foreman’s face. And while all this was going on, Muhammad Ali kept a non-stop verbal attack, “telling Foreman to throw more and harder punches.”
By Round 7 of the Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman had punched himself out. He was still throwing shots, but they were fewer in number and lacked strength. Toward the end of Round 8, Ali unleashed a quick barrage, catching a visibly-exhausted Foreman off guard. Foreman fell to the mat. He managed to regain his footing but it was too late.
The fight was over.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Muhammad Ali liked to call himself “The Greatest” and after the Rumble in the Jungle, it was hard to argue with him. So, how did he win?
George Foreman was considered too powerful to “out-box.” And this was probably the case. But Ali didn’t box him.
“Ali didn’t beat Foreman because he was a great boxer and had more speed of hand and foot. The biggest myth in boxing is the one where it’s believed Foreman was unable to beat a good boxer, and that’s why he lost his title to Muhammad Ali.” ~ Frank Lotierzo
Instead, Ali won through strategy, toughness, and durability. He literally let the ferocious Foreman attack him for seven full rounds. He took the best Foreman had to offer. And then he sent Foreman to the mat.
Ali went on to hold the World Heavyweight Championship for four more years. He lost the title to Leon Spinks in 1978, regained it later that year, and then retired. He later made an ill-advised comeback and accumulated two more losses before retiring with a 56-5 record. Foreman, on the other hand, was devastated by the loss. He retired in 1977 before making an incredible comeback. In 1994, he knocked out Michael Moorer and at forty-five years of age, became the oldest Heavyweight Champion in boxing history. It took twenty long years after the Rumble in the Jungle but at last, Foreman had regained his title.