Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THIS DATE IN HISTORY: Ali vs Foreman - Rumble in the Jungle

Ali Regains Title, Flooring Foreman



Special to The New York Times

KINSHASA, Zaire, Wednesday, Oct. 30 -- Under an African moon in the darkness before dawn today, a bee battered a lion as Muhammad Ali registered an eighth-round knockout of George Foreman and regained the world heavyweight title at the age of 32 after a lapse of more than seven years.

It was Foreman's first defeat after 40 victories, including 37 knockouts. Ali registered his 45th victory in 47 bouts with his 31st knockout.

Encouraged by the chant of "Ali, bomaye," from the crowd of nearly 60,000 spectators in the Stade du 20 Mai, boxing's most controversial champion created the most bizarre chapter in his bizarre career.

The only other man to regain the heavyweight title was Floyd Patterson, who knocked out Ingemar Johansen in 1960 after the Swedish boxer had dethroned him the previous year.

From the first round on, Ali took Foreman's most powerful punches without flinching and without wobbling except for a brief moment in the second round. Suddenly, midway in the eighth round, Ali, at 216 1/2 pounds to Foreman's 220, exploded a left-right combination that floored the weary 25-year-old Texan.

Ali had predicted that "after the 10th round, Foreman will fall on his face from exhaustion." As it turned out, Foreman was knocked on his rump in exhaustion. At the time, Foreman was wobbly and weary while Ali somehow had maintained his strength despite the long and violent battering. Groping to his feet, he was counted out by Zack Clayton, the referee, at 2 minutes 58 seconds of the round.

"Foreman was humiliated," Ali said later.

"I did it. I told you he was nothing but did you listen? I told you I was going to jab him in the corners, I told you I was going to take all his shots. I told you he had no skill. I told you he didn't like to be punched."

Ali's reaction was similar to his attitude in 1964 after he won the heavyweight title when Sonny Liston declined to come out for the seventh round of their Miami Beach bout. Ali, then known as Casius Clay, was a 7-1 betting underdog that time. He was a 4-1 underdog to Foreman, unbeaten in 40 previous bouts.

"I lost the fight," Foreman commented, "but I was not beaten. He's now the champion. He has to be respected."

Ali had mentioned that this would be his "last fight" but he dodged questions pertaining to his retirement.

"Foreman was scared," Ali said, "and who would want a rematch. I got to get $10-million before I think about fighting."

At ringside, Joe Frazier, who outpointed Ali in a 15-round decision in 1971 but lost a 12-round decision to him early this year, hoped to arrange a title bout with Ali next year.

"I'm ready for him, " said Frazier, also a former champion. "I know how to fight him now."

Ali joined Floyd Patterson as the only heavyweight champion to recapture the title. Patterson was dethroned by Ingemar Johansson in 1959 but knocked out the Swedish boxer the following year. Patterson also knocked out Johansson in a 1961 bout.

Ali has now won 45 of 47 bouts, with 32 knockouts. His only losses were to Frazier and to Ken Norton, the California heavyweight who broke Ali's jaw in winning a 12-round decision early last year. At that time Ali's career appeared to be waning rapidly.

Ali then outpointed Norton ina rematch and then outpointed Frazier to qualify as Foreman's foremost challenger.

In his three title bouts, Foreman had needed only 11 minutes 35 seconds in dethroning Frazier and successfully defending his crown against Joe (King) Roman and Norton, but in the ring under a canopy in the Zaire capital's soccer stadium, he was unable to pound Ali into submission with the same punches that had demolished the other three.

Ali took command of the spectacle even before Foreman entered the ring. Ali, who weighed 216 1/2 pounds to foreman's 220 at Saturday's weigh-in, arrived in a white satin robe trimmed with what appeared to be an African blanket. He danced and shuffled for nearly 10 minutes before Foreman appeared in a red velvet robe with a blue sash.

During the playing of the national anthems, the Star Spangled Banner and Le Zarois, while two American and two Zaire flags were in the ring, Ali mocked Foreman, who seemed not to see him. Later, while Foreman sat on his stool having his gloves tied on, Ali swooped near him and taunted him with a mock look, to the delight of the crowd.

At the bell, Foreman moved clumsily but quickly. He appeared to slow Ali with a long left hook to the body near the ned of the first round. He also pinned Ali to the ropes and slammed punches with both hands to the rib cage. Ali covered up effectively. When the round ended, Ali sat on his stool and winked across the ring.

In the wait for the second round, the "Ali, bomaye," chant began. When the round started, Foreman again chased Ali, pinning him against the ropes. But suddenly Ali retaliated with a flurry of jabs. Midway in the round, Ali appeared to wobble and he grabbed Foreman's shoulder momentarily. But quickly he swung a right cross and threw several jabs.

During the third, Ali was content to lay on the top rope and permit foreman to pummel him almost at will. But every so often, the old bee would sting the young bear with jabs that snapped back Foreman's head. Instead of sitting on his stool after the third, Ali strolled over to make a face into the closed-circuit TV cameras at ringside.

In the fourth, Ali opened with a quick flurry of jabs that jarred Foreman's head. But still Ali was content to lay on the ropes again. Foreman's legs appeared weary as he walked after Ali and often lunged ineffectively.

When the fifth began, Ali maintained his strange tactics. Other boxers had been toppled quickly by Foreman's sledge-hammer punches but Ali obviously had prepared himself well for this task. Surely his body will be sore tomorrow, but somehow, despite the punches to his face, there was no obvious sign of the punishment.

During the intermission before the sixth, Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, hurried across the ring apron to where a Zairian boxing official was trying to tighten the turn-buckle to control the top rope that Ali had been laying against. But instead of tightening it, the Zairian official was loosening it. The rope sagged.

Perhaps on Dundee's orders, Ali avoided those ropes during the sixth. Had he not, he might have toppled backward out of the ring. And in avoiding the ropes, he moved more than he had been before in jabbing Foreman effectively and often.

Stumbling along, Foreman chased Ali throughout the seventh, but his face had puffed, especially around the right eye that had been cut in training, causing a six-week postponement. Foreman was hoping to measure Ali for the big punch that had finished 24 consecutive opponents but his arms were powerless.

Suddenly, with the left-right combination, Ali produced the knockout. Moments later, perhaps overcome with emotion, he sat down in the ring for several moments as his idolaters swarmed onto the canvas to surround him. The Zairian police and paratroopers needed several minutes to clear up the chaotic situation.

Not long after that the dawn broke here. But soon a heavy rainstorm crashed over the stadium. It was raining on an old and a new heavyweight champion.

Ali's Robe Forgotten

In the carpeted dressing room for the fighters underneath the stadium, the clock in each was stopped at 3 o'clock, the original time for the bout here before the end of Daylight Saving Time in the United States last weekend. Foreman entered his room at 2:30 but Ali didn't arrive until almost 3 o'clock.

"Somebody forgot his robe," said a member of Ali's entourage, "and they had to send back to get it."

Foreman had ridden in a Citroen from the nearby Intercontinental Hotel but Ali had been transported with his entourage in a Mercedes Benz bus on the 40-mile trip from his villa at the N'sele diplomatic complex.

Before entering his dressing room, Ali walked out to view the vast crowd that rose to the top of the concrete saucer, where the $10 bleacher seats were. Quickly, he surveyed the multitude, but in the shadow of the portal, he was unseen.

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