Rumble in the Jungle: More than 40 years later

Updated 1:08 AM ET, Mon June 6, 2016
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Was it the greatest sporting occasion of the 20th century? For many, the world heavyweight championship between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman -- dubbed the "Rumble in the Jungle" -- is the most compelling contest of all time. More than 40 years after this legendary bout, which took place in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974, we look back at a night that went down in history. STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Foreman arrived in Africa as the undefeated world champion, Ali as the challenger. Ali's refusal to fight in the Vietnam War had resulted in a ban from boxing and the stripping of his world title, while Foreman had risen to the top of the sport following a gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games. "To me, it was like a charity fight," Foreman told the BBC. "I'd heard Ali was desperately broke, so I thought I'd do him a favor. I got $5 million and I was willing to let him have $5 million." STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Both Foreman and Ali arrived in Zaire -- now known as Democratic Republic of Congo -- long before the fight to acclimatise to the conditions in Kinshasa. The fight was staged in Zaire with the aim of boosting tourism in the country, and it was accompanied by a three-day music festival. STR/AFP/Getty Images
Ali's mother, Odessa Lee Clay, tends to her son three days before the fight. "I always felt like God made Muhammad special," she said of Ali, "but I don't know why God chose me to carry this child." STR/AFP/Getty Images
The weigh-in for the hotly anticipated bout took place on October 29, 1974. "Big George" Foreman came in at 220 pounds, while the challenger Ali, who at the age of 32 was giving away seven years to his opponent, weighed in at 216. Foreman was the favorite for the fight, with Ali's business manager Gene Kilroy concerned about how he could deal with his friend should the worst happen. "My biggest fear was, suppose Ali got hurt. How good are the hospitals in Zaire? What would we have to do? Go on an aeroplane and get to Paris," Kilroy told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. "I discussed this with Ali and he said: 'Don't worry about me, worry about George.' " STR/AFP/Getty Images
A crowd of 60,000 packed into the 20th of May Stadium to see Ali, renowned for "dancing" across the ring, change his tactics for the fight, a move which ultimately undid the powerful Foreman. "The idea it was some premeditated plan is nonsense," renowned British sportswriter Hugh McIlvanney opined. "It was more of a triumph that such a brilliant improvisation had come to him in a crisis." The tactic spawned the expression "rope-a-dope" as Ali lay on the boxing ring's ropes, thereby diminishing the power of Foreman's punching. STR/AFP/Getty Images
Ali's tactics bamboozled Foreman, who struggled to get on top of the challenger. "He became so confused by Ali's tactics that he finished the fourth round hurling wild swings into the air, and later missed so badly with the punch that was meant to finish it all that he almost went through the ropes," late sportswriter Ian Wooldridge wrote in the Daily Mail. "Ali slapped him on the bottom." STR/AFP/Getty Images
"I shall be the matador and Foreman the bull," Ali had boasted in the buildup to the fight, and so it proved. The decisive blow came in the eighth round. A flurry of punches ended with a right hand that sent Foreman sprawling to the canvas. STR/AFP/Getty Images
Before the fight, Ali had famously claimed to have "handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail," while also saying, poetically, "floats like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his eyes can't see." STR/AFP/Getty Images
In the aftermath of the "Rumble in the Jungle," Ali named his price for his next fight. "I'm going to haunt boxing for the next six months," he was reported to have said by the Daily Mail. "I'll talk to the man who first offers me $10 million." A hefty price tag, even for the man dubbed by many, not least himself, as "The Greatest." STR/AFP/Getty Images