“Ali, Bomaye.” It means “Ali, kill him”, is one of the most famous chants in boxing history, and might not even be all that true, at least not in terms of how vociferous the supposedly entirely pro-Muhammad Ali crowd was with the chant during Ali’s 8th round stoppage of George Foreman in 1974.
“Oh, you know, that’s kinda made up, make-believe,” Foreman said. “That was, if you really look at the fight, or somebody could show you the fight, they had an equal amount of people for both of us. They really did.”
Foreman said the storyline about the crowd chanting that during “The Rumble in the Jungle” was just a myth.
“There were a lot of people pulling for George Foreman over there as well as Muhammad Ali,” Foreman said.
Chant Highlighted in New York Times Report
Indeed, while the Dave Anderson’s 1974 New York Times piece entitled A Comeback Chant: ‘Ali, Bomaye’, was probably geared solely toward explaining the fight through the storytelling lens of what Anderson had experienced in witnessing Ali lead a group of fans in chanting those words as he was preparing for the fight.
In fact, Anderson’s prefight pieces for the same outlet seem to indicate the writer had interviewed just as many Foreman fans in Zaire (now part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) as he did Ali fans.
Regardless, Foreman said he didn’t see or hear anyone chanting ‘Ali, Bomaye’ during his fight against Ali and that he also hadn’t entered one of the most famous heavyweight championship matches in boxing history with any kind of anger about anything Ali had said or done during the promotional buildup.
“I never saw any of that,” Foreman said. “It was Muhammad who encouraged that when he was going down the street in the bus and everything. But that (chant) didn’t happen in the fight at all.”
Ali Didn’t Psyche out Foreman as Popularly Depicted
Additionally, Foreman revealed that the idea Ali had somehow psyched out Foreman before the fight was also false. In fact, Foreman said the only thing he was really all that concerned about heading into the event was that he had all kinds of people whispering in his ear that the heavily favored Foreman shouldn’t seriously injure or kill his beloved opponent.
That would make some sense. After all, Foreman had grown up admiring Ali so much that he said the only reason he gunned so hard for the knockout was so that he could get it over with as soon as possible.
“Yeah, I thought the most the fight would go with the three rounds,” Foreman said.
Little did Foreman know, of course, that Ali would turn the tide on the previously undefeated champion. Ali famously predicted he would stop Foreman in ten rounds. Instead, Foreman was done after eight.
Foreman Was Surprised by Ali’s Resiliency
Almost 45 years later, Foreman still remembers how shockingly tough his opponent turned out to be.
“I’d hurt him a little bit, and I’d try to finish him out,” Foreman said. “Every round, I’d try to finish him off until all of a sudden I was finished.”
But the wild swings and surly demeanor Foreman employed against Ali had nothing to do with what he actually thought or felt about Ali as a person. That was the fighting style he’d always employed, and his prefight scowl was an act he learned from his mentor, former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.
“I had nothing against him beforehand.”
Foreman and Ali Chatted by Phone Before Fight
Besides, it was Foreman who had made sure he and Ali could talk things over by phone before the fight was made in the first place. Foreman said promoter Don King promised both fighters 5 million dollars, but that he still wanted to talk to Ali before signing the contract to make certain Ali seriously wanted the fight.
Foreman said Ali’s prefight antics, which included labeling Foreman “The Mummy” and “Frankenstein”, were all something Foreman expected to happen just as soon as the fight was signed. In fact, part of Foreman-Ali happening in the first place was because Ali had promised Foreman he’d do his part to help sell the fight to the public.
“He was a great promoter,” Foreman said. “He was like a little kid, you know, he loved to play and have fun. So I never did hold anything like that against him because it was me who called him up and promised him the fight.”
Foreman Expected Ali’s Prefight Promotional Antics
Foreman laughed about it all these years later. According to the 71-year-old heavyweight boxing legend, who lost his title to Ali in 1974 but shockingly regained it 20 years later via 10th round knockout against 26-year-old Michael Moorer, here’s how that phone conversation with Ali went down.
“Do you really want that fight?” Foreman asked.
“Yeah, George, I want it,” Ali said.
“Are you sure?” Foreman asked again.
“I really do George,” Ali replied.
“Okay, if you want it…” Foreman said.
“I’ll promote it, George, I’ll make it a big fight,” Ali said.
So Foreman told promoter Don King he’d sign the contract on that agreement that Ali would help promote the bout as much as possible. It was just a couple weeks later, after the contracts were signed, that Ali started doing his thing.
“And so I didn’t know that as soon as the fight was finalized he started calling me Frankenstein,” Foremen said.
Foreman Had Admired Ali as Middle Schooler and Never Stopped
Today, Foreman, 71, remains dedicated to continuing his passion for helping others live healthier lives. He already made a mint selling his George Foreman grills, and now he hopes to do something similar with his latest project, an over-the-counter rub-on pain relief cream called Real Time Pain Relief Knockout.
Ali passed away in 2016 at age 74. Despite suffering the loss to Ali in 1974, Foreman said he was a huge fan of the fighter before that bout, and remained so after.
“Well, you know everybody admired Muhammed Ali. I’m walking down the street here in Houston in middle school and all the kids were saying his poems and saying ‘Cassius Clay! I’m the greatest now. I’m pretty and everything!’ We were all doing it,” Foreman said. “He’d come on television and those were lovely times in history to see someone like that doing all of that. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
So while Foreman absolutely tried his best to defeat Ali in one of the most epic clashes in boxing history, the former fighter said anything suggesting he was ever angry, mad or full of hate for Ali was completely false.
“I had nothing against him actually,” Foreman said. “Just a lot of admiration.”
That, and that if anyone was chanting in the stadium that night for Ali to kill him, Foreman sure didn’t see or hear any of it.
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