The critics had no faith the 32-year-old Muhammad Ali would defeat George Foreman, seven years his junior, in the 1974 fight known as The Rumble in the Jungle. He was given 40-1 odds by some bookmakers before stepping into the ring in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Ali knocked out Foreman, 25, in the eighth round using what would become known as the “rope-a-dope” strategy. He let Foreman wear himself out, landing hard blows, but mostly against Ali’s body rather than his head. Ali took out his opponent with a hard, straight right shot to the face and reclaimed the title of heavyweight champion and “King of the World.”
The three-time heavyweight champion passed away on June 3. He struggled with Parkinson’s Disease in the latter part of his life, but Ali’s fight against Foreman in Africa remains one of history’s greatest sporting events (watch the complete fight in the video above).
The Rumble in the Jungle was one of the first fights organized by legendary boxing promoter, Don King. He promised each fighter $5 million, but he didn’t have the money. In return for staging the fight in Zaire, King secured the $10 million from Mobutu Sese Seko, the despotic president of Zaire, who seized power in the 1965 coup (and held power until 1997).
The original tagline for the fight was “From the Slave Ship to the Championship,” but was shot down by Mobutu. Lloyd Price, who helped King promote the fight, told USA Today that the phrase “Rumble in the Jungle” came from one of Ali’s assistant trainers and a cornerman, Drew “Bundini” Brown, and Ali himself. Prince remembers Brown saying, “Rumble, baby, rumble!” and then Ali said, “Rumble in the jungle.”
Prior to the fight, Ali delivered one of his most famous hype speeches and a stirring poem calling out Foreman. Watch it below.