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Boxing Lesson

Have we been rope-a-doped?


In October 1974, Muhammed Ali walked into a boxing ring in Kinshasa, Zaire. The 32-year-old was a consensus underdog against undefeated world heavyweight champ George Foreman. He had lost to Joe Frazier in 1971, and had his jaw broken by Ken Norton in 1973. Despite his underdog status, Ali's flamboyant style and strong pro-African ideals won him the hearts and minds of fans in Zaire and elsewhere. George Foreman, meanwhile, surrounded himself with his inner circle and isolated himself from the African people.

"The "Rumble in the Jungle' was a fight that made the whole country more conscious," Ali said in a 1999 Newsweek interview. "I wanted to establish a relationship between American blacks and Africans. All the time I was there, I'd travel to the jungles, places where there was no radio or television, and people would come up to me, and I could touch them." To Foreman, the fight was simply about his superior firepower.

When the opening bell rang, Ali openly taunted Foreman. In the second round, Ali did something shocking. He fell back against the ropes and waved Foreman to come get him. He protected his head, and let one of the hardest hitting heavyweights in boxing history relentlessly pound away at his body.

After a few rounds, Foreman began to tire. His arms began to drop. Ali began leaning into Foreman, asking him, "Is that all you got?" In the eighth round, Ali busted a right-left combo over Foreman's tired, lowered arms directly to the chin of the about to be former champ, sending Foreman down. Ali had stared down the barrel of the world's most powerful heavyweight -- a physically superior opponent -- and beat him using the now infamous rope-a-dope strategy.

George Foreman learned a great deal from the experience. He wound up returning 20 years later, a fan favorite himself, using the experience to regain his championship from Michael Moorer.

One can only hope our own current George is a boxing historian and not just a Brave New dope. Twenty years in the desert is a long, long time.

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