The Greatest After Ali (Part 12)
Reminiscent of the days leading to the Foreman-Ali title fight in 1974 when expectations of a mismatch or worse, a ‘walk-over” win by champion George Foreman over an ageing Muhammad Ali was running high, a similar atmosphere now also exists in the Philippines. With fans doubting whether Manny Pacquiao can take the challenge of fighting a much taller, heavier and with a longer reach and a smart fighter in Oscar De La Hoya is the most asked bugging question circulating among Filipinos fight fans. However, despite the huge advantages De La Hoya is enjoying, there are diehard Pacquiao fans who see the fight going his way. And this writer is one of them.
Days prior to the Foreman-Ali fight, this writer from his findings was alone in his town in the beliefs that Ali would come out the winner. In fact, for being so attached to everything “Ali”, he was ridiculed and worse, even laughed at for idolizing a “phony, a nut and washed-up” fighter. Yet, despite all those criticisms, he stood his ground knowing that deep inside Ali’s mind is a genius and just like Ali was, also very confident that Ali will win against Foreman. He even dared to put bets like “drinking sprees” with friends, cash and sent telegrams to friends of his prediction and asked if they would put bets, too. To this day, all he just received after the fight was a last minute bet of Php200.00 winnings, praises and congratulatory messages from friends, but none of those drinking sprees.
So, like those times, fight fans nowadays have one way or another have already put assorted bets on the fighters and Pacquiao as the odds say is the underdog. Despite the tag on him now and just like in 1974, this writer never wavers in his beliefs that he will get through this. Why he sees the same way as in 1974 is in the way he appreciates boxing and the way boxers fight.
From the very time Foreman turned professional after winning a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics, Ali had been “watching” him progress to the top from the sidelines. Ali knew that they would someday cross paths and that he should be ready by then, and he always was. With most of his fights ending in early KOs, Foreman was so devastating every time with his wild booming heavy punches that overwhelm and knocked out almost all his opponents. After flooring champion Joe Frazier several times and knocking him out in two rounds, the sports media was so fascinated by his KO wins especially after easily disposing Joe “King” Roman and Ken Norton in his successive title defenses that they described him “invincible”. However, Ali remained unfazed by the tag on Foreman as he never poses a threat to him, he boasts. That’s because deep inside Ali’s brain, he “alone” knows what he lacks in his arsenal and knows too well “how to fight”, beat and humiliate Foreman in his own game.
With their fight labeled Rumble in the Jungle scheduled to take place in Kinshasa, Zaire, Ali soon drummed up interests to the fight. To keep fans tuned in to the fight, Ali described Foreman as like a “mummy” and fights like a “laundry woman” as he has no skills as a fighter. He even boasted that he had devised a “punch” solely intended to counter Foreman’s powerful punches called the ghetto whipper punch “because this punch is thrown in the ghetto at three o’clock in the morning!” referring to the time the fight will take place in Zaire, Africa to coincide with prime time in the US which is at eight in the evening. If those jokes were not enough to keep Foreman and fans awake, Ali as usual apply psychological warfare to instill fear in Foreman and annoy fans as well. Predicting that “this will be a fight between a ‘scientific fighter’ and a ‘street fighter’ and George Foreman is the street fighter” they soon questioned if Ali has enough substance to back his words as everything he does in his training do not show such qualities. And it is here where everybody took Ali’s bait
Despite always boasting that he will knock out Foreman, so-called “experts” do not see Ali capable of doing so as he never shows them in his training. Most of the time that Ali does in his sparring sessions, he just kept lying on the ropes with his gloves covering his head allowing his spar mates to pummel him at will on his sides. Unmindful of what Ali was doing every time and seeing that he doesn’t back up his words with actions, these experts soon dismissed him as just “lazy” in his training and gave him no chance, not even a slim chance of ever upsetting Foreman as he boasts. However, Ali knew they are all for a big surprise. In fact, as Ali planned it, they all played to the idea he laid out – to make disbelievers and to be the underdog.
Fight came at three in the morning in Africa and as Ali had expected it, the pattern of the fight followed all the way by his desires. After “feeling out” Foreman in the first two rounds, Ali sensed by then that his top secret weapon he devised for so long now works. Lying most of the time on the ropes to be pummeled by Foreman, Ali even invited him more to hit him harder and dumbly, Foreman obliged not knowing he was just being drained of his stamina. So, after exchanging heavy punches for five rounds, by the sixth Foreman started to grasp for air and Ali took control of the fight from thereon. Late in the eighth, a quick combination of accurate left and right punches by Ali sent Foreman laying on the floor for the full count by referee Zack Clayton to lose his title. In the process, Foreman gained the honor of being the most celebrated victim of Ali’s rope-a-dope, a very simple and common boxing tactic turned into a “novelty” only Ali can perform. With the world turned upside down, Ali again had all the world listening to him shout his usual chant, “I am the Greatest!!”
As history now writes, if Ali had not unmasked George Foreman, the world by now would have called Foreman “the greatest fighter” ever and not Ali. But thanks to Ali anyway, Foreman was not the same again as he has now learned a lesson. Although Foreman has the refutation of being the oldest man to regain the heavyweight title later when he came back after losing to Ali, the lessons he “learned” from Ali are immeasurable. >
While watching the second fight of former champions Ali and Frazier in 1974 to determine who fights him next, Foreman left the fight after the second round telling people he “can’t get a lesson” from their fight. As his records show before meeting Ali, Foreman used to knock out his opponents early in the fight that he did not see in either fighter capable of emulating him, thereby reasoning that he can’t get a lesson from them. But right after the Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman at last “learned” a lesson from Ali – that “stamina and brain” and not just power and guts are what it takes to be a great fighter like him. Thus, by the time he made a comeback, he showed many innovations in his style and training and was not grasping for air anymore after six rounds, lessons he “learned” so much only from a genius. Today, Foreman is a millionaire, retired, a successful and proud owner of “George Foreman Enterprises”.
In the case of Pacquiao meeting De La Hoya, there will be no need for either fighter to employ the rope-a-dope or imitate the Ali Shuffle in their fight as both can’t do it the way Ali can. Instead, they will have just to show their skills and determinations if who the better fighter is and as this writer long saw it, it will be Pacquiao.
(To be continued…} #### Related Article:
The Greatest After Ali (Part 12) Even without any boxing title to be put at stake by either boxer in the “dream match” between American-Mexican Oscar De La Hoya and Filipino idol Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 6, speculations as to how the fight will go and end already runs high in the Philippines.Read more…
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