On this day in 1974, Muhammad Ali won the historic "Rumble in the Jungle," an international boxing event held in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali was 32 years old, and his opponent, George Foreman, was 25. At the time, Ali had not worn the heavyweight champion of the world belt for seven years.
Ali was stripped of his world heavyweight champion title in 1967 when he came out as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and refused to be drafted to fight in the war. The boxer was accused of draft-dodging by the government and the boxing commission took away his boxing license as a result. Ali's victory in Zaire came years after his conviction as a draft dodger was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. The Oct. 30 win meant that he became the second dethroned boxing champion to win his title back.
The First Heavyweight Championship Held in Africa
The Rumble in the Jungle was the first time an African nation hosted a heavyweight championship fight. Zaire's president, the controversial Mobutu Sese Seko, paid George Foreman and Muhammad Ali $5 million each for attending the event. It was the president's hope that the event would bring more attention to Zaire's natural beauty and natural resources. Ali said that he wanted to participate because he thought it would help establish a deeper relationship between black Americans and black Africans. Later, Ali also wrote that the Rumble in the Jungle was intended to make America more conscious of its racial issues and Vietnam.
The Fight Lasted 8 Rounds
The fight lasted eight rounds. Initially, Foreman came out strong with his famous sledgehammer punches. Ali held back, waiting for the younger boxer to tire out. The strategy proved useful as Foreman's punches became less powerful in the fifth round. By the eighth round, Foreman was described as a bee harassing a bear. That is when Ali launched his offensive, a series of quick punches that confused and tired out Foreman even more. Eventually, Foreman's legs buckled under him and the referee counted him out.
Ali's rise from the ashes at the Rumble in the Jungle -- after spending so many years as an anti-war advocate and conscientious objector to the draft -- was a victory for peace, racial equality and it helped foster a better relationship between black America and its African roots. Can you think of any other boxing events -- or professional athletic contests, in general -- that had so much significance on the political, racial or civil rights front?
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