Rumble

ali foreman overhead

That night, exactly forty years ago, I was too nervous – too frightened, really – to appreciate how well Muhammad Ali fought against George Foreman. Like lots of other Ali fans, I’d had a grim feeling that he was going to lose, and lose badly.  Tonight I watched the whole bout again –  the US broadcast this time – right through to the knock-out punch at the end of the eighth round, and marveled at the skill, the daring, the ruthlessness. (Shame you can’t say the same for David Frost’s intrusive, wide-eyed ringside comments. American viewers definitely got the short straw that night.)  Afterwards I pulled my copy of George Plimpton’s “Shadow Box” off the shelves.

George Foreman’s dressing room was a huge chartreuse emporium-like parlour – like a Las Vegas ante-room. He came back into it under his own steam, but with handlers close at his shoulders. He was wearing a red and blue robe with WORLD CHAMPION embroidered on the back in schoolboy script. Did they pack these things away, I wondered, these deposed champions? “Where’s my dog?” he asked. He touched Dago on the head; the dog’s tail swept back and forth. Foreman was guided to the rubbing table; he lay on it, gold lamé towels draped over his shoulders, ice packs applied to his face. He asked Dick Sadler if he had been knocked out cold. Then, like a hand flexing a leg that had gone to sleep, he began testing his senses, counting slowly, backward from 1oo, and then calling out the names of everyone he could think of in his camp…

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