Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ali: The Unexpected....

I had a great conversation about Muhammad Ali's fight against George Foreman recently. If you aren't old enough to know about the Rumble in the Jungle, I recommend watching the documentary When We Were Kings by Leon Gast. Anyone interested in martial strategies should see this film.

Anyway, Foreman was the favourite, after beating the legendary Joe Frazier by knocking him down six times in two rounds. Foreman was a giant with big power. Ali was long-in-the-tooth and had recently been suspended from boxing for three years for not participating in the Vietnam conflict.

Although many fight historians focus on the strategy of Ali to let Foreman punch himself into fatigue (rope-a-dope), what I was fascinated by in the documentary was Ali's very deliberate decision to utilize a right cross as his engaging strike, instead of the boxer's higher percentage and usual first strike, the jab.

It was dangerous, as the back hand must travel farther to reach the target, and can leave you open for a counter. A jab, with its speed and accuracy, is usually used to wear down an opponent and set up for the more lethal right.

But Ali, despite being told this strategy was highly dangerous and could backfire, stuck to his guns and when he wore down poor George by pretending to be a punching bag for several rounds, he took Foreman by surprise with such an unpredictable attack. It was one of these right crosses, I believe, that initially buckled Foreman's knees and led to Ali's victory in Africa that night.


One part confidence and one part sheer unpredictability.

A lesson for anyone interested in the psychology of combat.

Oh yeah, for the record, I was only two-weeks-old when the fight took place ;)


  1. Interesting. I'll have to watch that show. Didn't that win an Oscar for best documentary?

  2. not sure, but it was good. ali's confidence could at times be way too much.... but in africa one could see it really factor in to the training...

  3. "One part confidence and one part sheer unpredictability"

    I wonder how that statement would have ended if he had been unsuccessful.

    Your post is an interesting examination of psychology in the ring. Another interesting thing I read about Ali was that he never thought he was necessarily the best, he just kept saying it over and over again until the media started repeating it and people (including his opponents) started believing it. Another great lesson in psychology.