SPORTS

The Exact Moment Muhammad Ali Silenced His Critics

"Everybody stop talking now. Attention."

Muhammad Ali just needed the go-ahead.

"Is it live?" he asked. 

"Right now," responded the reporter, holding a mic to the boxer's ready-to-go mouth. 

At age 32, Ali had just upset defending heavyweight champion George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.) Going rope-to-rope in humid 80-degree heat, the "Rumble In The Jungle" of October 1974 is considered the late Ali's greatest fight.

He was supposedly washed up — too slow and lumbering to defeat a more physically powerful champion seven years his junior. In January of 1974, Ali defeated Joe Frazier to become Foreman's title challenger, but a 1973 split decision against Ken Norton, in which Ali had his jaw broken, showed how vulnerable Ali was three years into his comeback. The Frazier victory did little to dissuade critics from believing Ali wasn't a champion anymore. In a broadcast of the fight, announcers reported that the only person in boxing who claimed Ali would knock out Foreman was, of course, Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee. 

By the time it came, Ali's eighth-round knockout of Foreman wasn't shocking. The whole bout, from the opening bell to the official's ending call, wasn't even close. The dominating victory spurred this emphatic, in-the-moment mic-dropping speech, in which he truly took the title of "The Greatest": 

Everybody stop talking now. Attention. I told you, all of my critics, I told you all that I was the greatest of all time when I beat Sonny Liston. I told you today, I'm still the greatest of all time. Never again defeat me. Never again say that I'm going to be defeated. Never again make me the underdog until I'm about 50 years old. Then you might get me. 

But I didn't dance. I didn't dance for a reason. I wanted to make him lose all his power. I kept telling him he had no punch, he couldn't hit, he's swinging like a sissy, he's missing, lemme see ya box. I hadn't start dancing yet.

You can't say my legs are gone, you can't say I was tired, because what happened? I didn't dance from the second round on. I stayed on the ropes. When I stay on the ropes you think I'm doing bad. But I want all boxers to put this in the page of boxing: Staying on the ropes is a beautiful thing with a heavyweight when you make him shoot his best shots and you know he's not hitting ya. 

I would've gave George Foreman two rounds of steady punching, because after that, he was mine. He was falling, he was missing, and I don't know if I'm gonna fight again or not. I'm going to retire as of now. 

 

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