Forty years after the mythical fight between the legends of boxing Mohamed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, the memories remain intact in the Congolese capital. Boxing has even become a very popular sport in the country.
Kinshasa from 30 October 1974 to 30 October 2020, history holds that it has been 46 years since the DRC, then Zaire, under the leadership of its late President, Mobutu Sese Seko, had mobilized many humans, financial and material resources to organize, for the first time in Africa, a heavyweight world championship battle between the two greatest boxers of the time, the American blacks Georges Foreman and Muhammad Ali.
Since this historic fight, boxing has become popular in the country. Even today, the passion for this sport has remained intact. Mohamed Ali continues to be a source of inspiration. His technique is still taught in boxing clubs in Kinshasa.
The condition laid down by the famous Don King, the organizer of the so-called fight of the century, which filmmakers will bring to the screen under the title «Rumble in the jungle» or «Combat in the jungle», was to offer not only a fee of 5 million US dollars to each of these two boxers but also to find the one who was to finance it. During a trip to the Middle East, Muhammad Ali, ex-Cassius Clay, made a fortuitous meeting with President Mobutu to whom the Black American submits the project of the fight that was bothering him in the head.
The fight of the century
The contract will then be concluded and, for greater convenience, the Zairian government decided not to levy any tax on revenues estimated at between US$35 million and US$100 million, especially since retransmission rights were purchased by several countries.
For President Mobutu, it was a great opportunity to do his marketing and that of his country de-baptized «Zaire». The rendezvous for the fight of the century was then set for mid-September 1974.
From that moment on, various celebrities from the world of culture and art appeared in Kinshasa, such as the American black musician artist James Brown and his band and the American film actor Clint Eastwood.
The whole world has its eyes on the Congolese capital, which had welcomed on the occasion various cultural events with the numerous participations of several artists-musicians of world renown.
But, a few days before the fight, George Foreman is injured in training at the brow arch. The fight was then sent back to October 30, 1974 to allow Foreman to have his wound treated.
In the meantime, Muhammad Ali, received by President Mobutu, as well as the title holder George Foreman, multiplied the statements: I am an American citizen, never the President of the United States made me this honor to receive me. But Mobutu did it for me». Muhammad Ali had also approached and acquainted himself with the Congolese population, who constantly encouraged him by shouting at each of his public appearances: «Ali boma ye» (Ali Kill-him.
On October 30, 1974, all Kinshasa bathed in a festive atmosphere until the moment of the reconquest of the belt of world champion WBC (World boxing council) by Muhammad Ali, after his decline for his refusal to go to fight in Vietnam. The Vietnamese did nothing to me. Why would I kill them,” he kept saying?
46 years after that fight of the century, many things have changed. President Mobutu, sponsor of the event, died on 7 September 1997 in Morocco. Born on January 17, 1942, winner of the fight at the age of 32 at the time of this big event, Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016. His opponent, still alive, became a preacher and returned to the DRC as such a few years ago. He is now 71 years old.
The arena of this fight of the century, the stadium of May 20, became Reverend Father Raphael of the Kethule, in the commune of Kalamu, does not end of decay despite the passage in this place, in October 2009, of the daughter of Muhammad Ali, Khaliah Ali, who wanted to visit the site where his illustrious father had written in golden letters one of the most beautiful pages in the history of noble art. ACP/GGK