THERE is one boxing bet that I will never forget: Muhammad Ali losing to George Foreman in 1974.
As the defending champion, Foreman had this myth of invincibility very few boxers would possess—Mike Tyson included.
Foreman’s awesome power was incredibly unmatchable. He knocked out many opponents in a manner like he was smashing watermelons with a baseball bat.
When he retired, Foreman had a compilation of 68 knockouts out of his 76 wins. Ali triumphed 56 times with 37 KOs.
After finally hanging up his gloves, Foreman said: “I thank God I didn’t kill anyone atop the ring.”
Before facing Ali in Kinshaha, Zaire, 46 years ago, Foreman was fresh from a convincing knockout victory over Frazier to capture the crown and become the undisputed world heavyweight champion.
So massively devastating was Foreman’s victory that he decked Frazier six times en route to that sensational stoppage in 1:35 of Round 2.
From that astonishing triumph in Kingston, Jamaica, on Jan 22, 1973, Foreman would travel to Kinshaha, Zaire, to defend his title against Ali as the overwhelming favorite.
That’s when I picked Foreman to defeat Ali that night of Oct. 30, 1974, in the now Democratic Republic of Congo.
It proved to be the biggest misread of my crystal ball.
In the eighth round, after practically allowing himself to be battered unendingly while imprisoning himself unto the ropes, Ali uncorked a lightning-quick combination to the face that dazed Foreman beyond repair.
In a matter of seconds, Foreman was down on the canvas and just before the round ended, Ali was the winner by knockout.
It was called the “Rumble in the Jungle” and adjudged the “greatest sporting event of the century.”
The eminent novelist Norman Mailer wrote a book about it and he titled it, “The Fight.” I still have it.
Mailer and I would meet a year later when he was here to cover the “Thrilla in Manila” between Ali and Frazier on Oct. 1, 1975.
With his girlfriend half his age in tow, Mailer acceded to a beer invite in a joint in front of the Cubao Big Dome. But that’s another story.