Today in History: The "Rumble in the Jungle" is watched by 1 billion people

in history •  last month 

In what was considered (at the time) the greatest sporting event of the 20th century, Muhammad Ali solidified him self as "The Greatest of All Time" by knocking out George Foreman in the last minutes of the 8th round.

While World Cup audiences routinely see these kind of viewership numbers in the 2000's, back in the early 70's getting a billion people to watch the same live event was a very big deal as it surpassed everything up to that point including the Olympics.

The year was 1974


Although George Foreman is probably better known for the ubiquitous "Foreman Grill" (which is a great invention btw) there was a time where George was 25 years old, undefeated, and considered to be much better than anyone in the field, including Ali.

Many people will not understand why Ali wouldn't be considered the best at the time but he was actually a 4-1 underdog coming into this match and the main reason was because he received a near 4 year ban from the sport in the late 60's due to refusing to participate in the military-draft citing that is was against his religion. Upon returning to the sport in the early 70's he didn't seem like his old self, and was defeated by Joe Frazier in 1971.

Also, George Foreman had already easily defeated the only person other than Frazier to ever best Ali, Ken Norton... and he did so in a mere 2 rounds. With this in mind, and the fact that Ali was 7 years older than Foreman, the bookmakers didn't give Ali much of a chance in the bout.


The fight took place in Zaire, and both fighters spent the better part of 1974 in Africa in order to get accustomed to the very different climate that can be expected there.

Even if you don't know much about Ali or Foreman, or even boxing, there is a good chance that you have heard of "rope a dope." This is a technique that Ali designed specifically for George Foreman.


It consisted of Ali covering up and leaning back on the ropes, convincing the stronger George Foreman that he had an advantage and all he needed to do was finish Ali. This resulted in George expending a massive amount of energy on his very strong punches, but not only was he not hurting Ali and also wasting energy, he was scoring zero points on the blows. Ali was able to keep Foreman mad as well, as he would constantly taunt George throughout the fight saying things like "They told me you could punch, George!"

By the 7th and especially 8th rounds, Foreman was noticeably very tired. After landing a shot on Ali's jaw, Ali leaned forward and whispered to Foreman "That all you got, George?"

It wasn't long after the final taunt that this happened....


The record viewership of a billion went unmatched until nearly a year later when the numbers were surpassed..... by another Ali fight... this one-upping of viewership records would continue every year but one of them until 1980, all of them were Muhammad Ali fights.

Looking back on what we know about Muhammad Ali, it is difficult to imagine that back in the early 70's the industry had pretty much turned on him and considered him "washed up and "too old to make a comeback. "

Boy did he ever prove them wrong.

Consequently, Ali never did offer Foreman a rematch, but they did become great friends a bit after the fight once the hard feelings died down. In 1996 while receiving an Oscar for "When we were Kings," Ali, his body so diminished from the affects of Parkinson's disease, was unable to climb the stairs to accept his award. George Foreman was the guy who helped him up the stairs

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  ·  last month Reveal Comment

Downvoted for Disagreement of rewards. @steemflagrewards
Hundreds of auto votes, no one has probably actually read this and if they had, it would be seen to be a very poor quality re-write with zero original opinion added.
Sorry, but this is poor and not worth $30 of rewards in my opinion

I can recall Don King arrived with George foreman and left with Ali. He moved with whoever was the champion.

Yeah, Don King unfortunately is a scumbag that made a lot of these fights (and fighters) happen. I think there is a movie about him.

I read his book which showed how bad he really was. Books are always better than the movies anyway as they don't skip things out.

was that "Only in America".... yeah Don King is a truly unique person... completely unremorseful about how awful he is.

The title rings a bell somewhere so it could have been. I read it over 15 years ago so couldn't say yes or no.

I really need to go back and watch some of these classic fights some time. I wasn't born when this one happened and too young to probably remember any of the other ones. I would also like to see some of the old Tyson fights because I was never really into boxing and we didn't have cable TV when he was big. That is pretty crazy to imagine that 1 billion people were all watching the same thing when you consider the time period. These days it doesn't seem like much, but back in 1974... Wow!

it's crazy to me that a lot of the footage is in B&W in this one. I wasn't alive during most of Ali's career and even when i was alive for it, I don't recall it ever being mentioned when i was growing up. I should have a chat with my parents some day to see if everyone was nutso about it back then.

I remember the Tyson craze in the 80's but was too young to really know much about Ali.

  ·  last month (edited)

1 billion people? O.o'

I mean, I already thought the audience was high ... But that number is quite impressive!

considering the year, and the fact that cable TV didn't really exist and broadcasting all over the world live would have been incredibly difficult... yes!