If any fight fan of a certain age or education hears talk of how purposely loosened ropes played a huge part in the outcome of a fight, they instantly and reflexively think of the heavyweight epic that took place in the heart of Africa back in October of 1974. It was, of course, the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle.”
Has ANY other fight ever had any accusations pointed towards it with regard to the ropes being the chief factor in the outcome of the bout? No. In this regard, Ali-Foreman stands alone. It’s crazy to think that, all these years later, some people still say, with utmost certainty and smugness, that Angelo Dundee purposely loosened the ropes sometime before the epic fight got underway. Why would Dundee do such a thing? Because Ali, ever the master of strategy, had stunningly, in fact crazily, planned ahead of time to lean on the ropes in the fight, this in an effort at taking plenty of the zing out of Foreman’s monstrous and lethal blows.
The conspiratorial line of thinking tried to tell you, this just days after the momentous upset win scored by Ali, and still tries to tell you, that Dundee’s surreptitious ropes loosening all but saw his guy to victory. Foreman, his brutal power compromised due to the way Ali was able to lean back on sagging ropes, the shots being taken without much consequence, was then zapped by Ali when the defending champion’s energy levels were suitably depleted.
But there was, is, and always will be a colossal problem with this conspiracy theory (as there almost always is with all conspiracy theories). Ali had not ‘planned’ his famed ‘Rope-a-Dope’ tactic any more than Dundee would have ever approved of it if he had. Dundee, on the night (or morning) of the fight in Zaire, was screaming himself silly in almost begging Ali to ‘get off the ropes!’ Ferdie, Ali’s trusted doctor was doing the same thing, as was Bundini, and all of Ali’s corner.
There was no prearranged plan for Ali to lay on the ropes and let Foreman punch himself out. How could there have been? Such tactics would have been declared as nothing short of suicidal. It was only on the night (or morning) when Ali, realizing he was fighting on a soft canvas and also seeing first-hand how proficient Foreman was at cutting off the ring, decided, incredibly, to adopt a game plan that was on the spot designed to take Foreman’s shots and to also dodge them. A genius of the ring, Ali did the unthinkable, and it worked. Foreman, having nothing but unshakable belief in his punching power, was unable to change his own seek-and-destroy tactics, and he duly punched himself out, with Ali springing to life with an exquisite KO combination in round 8.
Nobody was more surprised and overjoyed than Angelo. And the recently deceased Bobby Goodman.
Ali, who took one helluva risk by employing his ‘Rope-a-Dope’ and also paid the price later by way of pissing blood and nursing a cracked rib, had shocked the world. And Ali had done his own thing. He had NOT planned his rope tactics before the fight, nor had he secretly ordered Dundee to assist his plan by having his career-long trainer and corner man loosen the ropes hours before the fight.
But still, all these years later, plenty of people will never, ever believe this. As is the case with the Ali-Liston fights, these folks will never be made to believe the action was on the level that there were no underhanded moves being played.
Today, the sad news broke of how lifelong fight figure Bobby Goodman passed away. Bobby was there in Zaire, and he went with Angelo to inspect the ring just hours before Ali and Foreman climbed in for their date with destiny.
Here is what Angelo told this writer with regards to the seemingly never to go away insistence that he purposely loosened the ropes in preparation for his guy’s ‘Rope-a-Dope’ technique.
“No, that’s not true at all,” Angelo told me in 2010 when speaking, yet again, on the so-called loosened ropes thing. “What actually happened was, I went to Kinshasa because we were staying in Nsele, in a villa, and I went to inspect the ring that day, this at 4 PM – Bobby Goodman and I. And we tried to tighten the ropes. They were 24-foot ropes for a 20-foot ring. It wasn’t easy, but we tightened them, not figuring on the heat in Zaire. The fight wasn’t until 4 AM the next morning, and the heat loosened the ropes again.
“I never, ever wanted Muhammad to lie on the ropes. As a matter of fact, I whacked him on his butt whenever he did lay on the ropes! That ring was six-feet off the ground, and I was so worried that Foreman would hit my guy in the chest and knock him out of the ring. If that had happened, the fight would have been over with.”
Dundee was probably forced to try his best to explain away the ‘loosened ropes’ myth more times than he could have possibly remembered. But this is the way it was. There was NO prearranged plan. There was no subterfuge. No cheating. There were no purposely loosened ropes. What there was Muhammad Ali’s boxing genius. And nothing more.
The late Bobby Goodman grew almost as weary as Angelo Dundee did when it came to trying to educate the skeptics on this matter.
R.I.P Angelo. R.I.P Bobby.