1967, the year this iconic photo was taken, was a momentous one for its subject, boxing great Muhammad Ali. In 1967, Ali refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War, and as a result was denied his boxing license and passport. Ali did not return to the ring until 1970.

Photograph by Ira Rosenberg, courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On October 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali beat the odds to regain the title of the world heavyweight boxing champion. The fight against the younger, bigger, defending champion, George Foreman, was held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and nicknamed the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Today, the Rumble in the Jungle is considered by many historians to be the greatest sporting event of the 20th century.
     
    Although the fight took place in Africa, it was a uniquely American event. Ali and Foreman shared many characteristics, and became very good friends. Both were gold medalists—Ali won the light heavyweight title at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy, and Foreman won the heavyweight title at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. Both athletes were also both born and raised in the American South—Ali in Louisville, Kentucky, and Foreman in Houston, Texas. 
     
    The third American who made the Rumble in the Jungle possible was promoter Don King. King was an outspoken showman who worked tirelessly to produce a profitable and entertaining event. Ali and Foreman both demanded $5 million for the fight, for instance. King’s organization did not have that money, so he negotiated with international businessmen and sporting figures to secure funding. Mobutu Sese-Seko had been president of Zaire since its founding just three years earlier, and was eager to encourage tourists to visit the new country. He invested in the Rumble in the Jungle and provided training facilities and a venue for the fight. While Ali and Foreman spent weeks adjusting to the tropical climate, King organized an all-star concert series with American and African musicians. James Brown, Celia Cruz, and Miriam Makeba were some of the artists to participate in the event, “Zaire 74.” King arranged for the Rumble in the Jungle to start after 4 a.m. in Kinshasa—so the fight could be broadcast during prime time in the United States.
     
    The Rumble in the Jungle helped cement Ali’s reputation as “The Greatest” boxer in the history of the sport. Foreman enjoyed a phenomenal boxing career, including several returns to the heavyweight title. King went on to promote other fights—notably the “Thrilla in Manila,” between Ali and Joe Frazier, the following year.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adjust Verb

    to change or modify something to fit with something else.

    arrange Verb

    to prepare or put in order.

    athlete Noun

    person who participates or competes in sporting events.

    boxing Noun

    sport of fighting with closed fists.

    broadcast Verb

    to transmit signals, especially for radio or television media.

    cement Verb

    to secure as solid.

    characteristic Noun

    physical, cultural, or psychological feature of an organism, place, or object.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    consider Verb

    to think about.

    eager Adjective

    enthusiastic.

    encourage Verb

    to inspire or support a person or idea.

    funding Noun

    money or finances.

    international Adjective

    having to do with more than one country.

    invest Verb

    to contribute time or money.

    jungle Noun

    tropical ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

    negotiate Verb

    to discuss with others of different viewpoints in order to reach an agreement, contract, or treaty.

    Olympics Noun

    international sports competition divided into summer and winter games held every four years.

    organize Verb

    to coordinate and give structure to.

    outspoken Adjective

    bold and candid speech or presentation.

    participate Verb

    to take part in an activity.

    phenomenal Adjective

    very impressive.

    prime time Noun

    between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., when television audiences are usually largest.

    profitable Adjective

    able to make money.

    promoter Noun

    person or organization that organizes and provides financial support for an event.

    reputation Noun

    estimation or value in which a person or thing is held.

    secure Verb

    to guarantee, or make safe and certain.

    South Noun

    loosely defined geographic region largely composed of states that supported or were sympathetic to the Confederate States of America (Confederacy) during the U.S. Civil War.

    tourist Noun

    person who travels for pleasure.

    train Verb

    to gain skill through discipline and practice.

    tropical Adjective

    existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

    venue Noun

    location of an event.