Oct. 30 – “Rumble in the Jungle”

On October 30, 1974, Mohammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the 8th round, retaking the world heavyweight boxing championship. Ali (born Cassius Clay) had been convicted of draft evasion following his refusal to participate in 1966, during the Vietnam War. As a result of his conviction, he was stripped of his championship. In 1971, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction, and he was again allowed to box. Ali left an incredible legacy, becoming a star inside and outside the ring. He was the first African American athlete to achieve world fame, and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 37 time, second only to Michael Jordan, and Time five times, the most of any athlete. He was a fabled trash talker, changing the nature of sportsmanship. His social activism was pioneering, and continues to influence athletes today. His death from Parkinson’s disease, and his willingness to continue to appear in public, brought enormous attention to the disease, and relatedly to the issue of head injuries in sports. The fight with George Foreman in 1974 took place in Kinshasa, Zaire. It is hard to imagine a major sporting event such as this taking place in Africa today. What does the location say about the social impact its promoters hoped to have? Ali’s good-natured trash-talking changed the way athletes interacted on and off the field. Has this been good for sports? How has the trash-talking of sports spilled over into other areas? Boxing was a gentleman’s fighting sport, which has lost a lot of popularity since Ali’s day. How have fighting sports changed? Do you think this a reflection of a change in society more generally?

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