On October 30, 1974, all eyes were on the African country of Zaire (modern day Congo) as two of the best boxers of all time fought for the World Heavyweight Title. Considered by many as one of the greatest fights ever, George Foreman attempted to defend his crown against an ageing Muhammad Ali. Besides the title, the victor would also walk away with $5 million.
Ali had lost his World Heavyweight title in 1967 when he was suspended for having refused to be drafted into the Army for the Vietnam War. He was stripped of his boxing license and was sentenced to five years in prison. After failing to have the ban revoked at the Court of Appeals, Ali took his case to the Supreme Court. By then, people had turned against the War and the support for Ali grew. In 1970, he was granted the permission to resume boxing, and he immediately started working towards reclaiming the World Title.
George Foreman was not the quintessential boxer that we know of. He did not have great technique, but he made up for it with his raw strength. Foreman had claimed the championship title from Joe Frazier (the only boxer of note who still had yet to lose a bout, Frazier had even beaten Ali in 1971 and thus ended Ali’s perfect record). Now Muhammad Ali stood as the Final Frontier to George Foreman, who had beaten all the other great boxers of the time. Thus, the fight was tailor made to become a part of boxing folklore.
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman spent months before the bout in Zaire to acclimatize themselves to the conditions. Originally the fight was scheduled to take place in September, but had to be postponed since Foreman had been injured during a practice session. Despite the minor incident, confidence in the Foreman camp was high. It has been said that some people had even been praying that Foreman wouldn’t kill Ali, the self proclaimed ‘Greatest Boxer of All time.’
What the world saw in the Rumble was a fight of brain versus brawn. After having a go at Foreman in the first round, Ali changed tactics to a secret strategy he had planned for Foreman (he later dubbed it Rope-a-dope). Ali let Foreman throw punch after punch at him, blocking him every time and only once in a while taking a swing at Foreman’s face. Furthermore, Ali kept taunting Foreman, saying “…they told me you could punch, George!” and “…they told me you could punch as hard as Joe Louis.” Foreman was soon tiring out, and that was when Ali stepped up his game. Finally, in the eighth round, Ali launched a combination at Foreman by which he pushed his face up with a strike from his left hand, followed by a lethal blow from his right. Foreman fell and was counted out (although many observers insisted that Foreman had gotten up by the ninth count). Ali finally won back the title that had been stolen from him seven years ago.