8. Muhammad Ali Vs George Foreman
October 30, 1974
Venue: Stade du 20 Mai
As a six-year-old boy when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman for Foreman’s heavyweight championship, I hadn’t yet begun my fandom as a fight fan. However, at the time, Ali was one of the two names that my father would always talk about with the other being Roberto Clemente. My father taught me to read by focusing on boxing magazines and the sports pages of both the New York Post and Daily News. Back then, Ali monopolized the sports pages of newspapers all over the country. Over 90 percent of these papers printed articles claiming that the then 32-year-old Ali had absolutely no shot at defeating the powerfully built and strong 25-year-old Foreman. My father told me that these reporters were all clowns and that there was no way Ali would lose to Foreman. Deep down inside, my father felt Ali would do whatever it takes to beat Foreman and finally regain the title that had been stolen from him over seven and a half years earlier.
Ali was a huge underdog going into the fight. Pop thought that Ali, with his movement and experience, could take the champion into the later rounds before knocking him out around rounds 12 or 13. Round one saw Ali dance and land several pinpoint combinations to the younger champion’s chin. Although Ali was able to land at will, he was unable to keep the larger Foreman from getting inside and backing him up against the ropes. Beginning with the second round, Ali decided to change up his game plan.
Round two and three saw Ali employ his now famous “Rope a Dope” strategy. He would lay against the ropes and because Foreman threw wide, gaping punches, Ali would quickly counter with rapid left hook and right cross combos. Early in round four, Ali briefly stunned Foreman with a pinpoint right cross. Foreman was tiring because of the African heat, the constant wide punches he was throwing and the wicked combos Ali was blistering him with. After four rounds, the young champion looked to have the older legs as he was visibly exhausted.
For the first two and a half minutes of round five, Ali laid up against the ropes and allowed to Foreman to bang incredible booming punches to his ribs. Then with 30 seconds left in the round, Ali bounced off the ropes and battered a completely spent Foreman with sizzling combination after combination. Ali employed the same strategy in round six and Foreman’s shots became very deliberate and telegraphed. For all intents and purposes, Foreman was done.
Round seven saw Ali toy with a completely gassed Foreman. Foreman’s punches were being pushed out there with absolutely no snap in them. Then with 20 seconds left in round eight, Ali capped off eight consecutive punches with a picturesque right cross that bounced Foreman off the canvas. Foreman looked like a man drowning in an ocean while attempting to get up. He did get up at the count of 10 as referee Zack Clayton counted him out. Once again, Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight champion of the world.
That night my father saw the fight on closed circuit, as back then, cable television barely existed, never mind pay-per-view. When he came home, a little after 2 a.m., he woke up the entire house as he hooped and hollered about Ali’s sensational victory. A few days later, my father began driving a 1971 Chevy Impala. He had won that car betting a dude in my neighborhood who was completely swiveled by Pop.
Ali would go on to reign for most of the next four years as champion before fighting one too many fights which resulted in a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s before finally passing away at the age of 74 in 2016. It would take Foreman exactly 21 years to overcome such a devastating loss. As far as Pop’s Chevy Impala, that car lasted him about five years before it completely broke down and died.