Rumble in the Jungle

Article

August 20, 2022

Rumble in the Jungle was a world heavyweight boxing championship match that took place on October 30, 1974 at the Stade du 20 Mai stadium in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire at the time, between world champion George Foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali. The match is generally considered one of the best in boxing history, although its events have been characterized as low. The name of the match was invented by promoter Don King, who promised both fighters a record five million dollar match fee. At that time, King was a new name in organizing big matches and he could not afford to guarantee match fees himself. The president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, agreed to invest his money in the match on the condition that the fight be held in his country. The match lasted eight rounds, during which the former world champion Muhammad Ali, who went into the fight as an underdog, tired his opponent by standing on the ropes and letting him beat himself to exhaustion. In the last round of the fight, Ali knocked Foreman to the canvas with a series of punches to the face and won the world championship by knockout. With the victory, Ali became the second heavyweight boxer who was able to win back the championship he once lost.

Background

Before the match

Muhammad Ali had lost his fighting license and world heavyweight title in 1967 after refusing to complete his military service. In 1970, he returned to the ring and defeated Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena, after which he was able to challenge world champion Joe Frazier in a world title match known as the Fight of the Century. Ali experienced the first loss of his career in the fight and lost a 15-round match to Frazier on points. Even after this, he continued his career and managed to become NABF national champion. He lost the title once to Ken Norton, but regained it in a rematch to face Frazier again. However, this had already lost his world championship to the young George Foreman. Ali defeated Frazier on points and challenged Foreman to a match for the world title. George Foreman had won a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics and turned pro. He knew how to make excellent use of his large size (190 cm and 100 kg), his striking power and the psychological superiority brought by his size. He was considered the most feared world champion since Sonny Liston. World champion Joe Frazier had only defended his title twice after his victory over Ali and went into the fight known as the Sunshine Showdown against Foreman as a 3:1 favorite. His trainers had estimated that Foreman was slow enough that Frazier would be able to dodge his punches. This was not to be, however, and Frazier lost his championship to the young upstart after falling to the canvas six times over two rounds before the referee stopped the fight. After his match with Frazier, Foreman defended his title twice: first against José Roman, who was knocked out in the first round; and against Ken Norton, who lost by knockout in the second round. Ali had previously faced both Frazier and Norton in equal fights, and had also experienced against them the only losses of his career up to that point. After Foreman had won both matches overwhelmingly, he was considered a clear early favorite in his match against Ali. According to his lawyers, Foreman had almost gone bankrupt due to both his divorce and the departure of his former financiers. $250,000 was withheld from his paycheck for the Roman match, and Foreman used all of his prize money from the Norton match to pay off debts and live an expensive life. The match pair's goals matched well, as George Foreman needed money and Muhammad Ali wanted to win another world championship. One