On October 30, 1974, 32-year-old Muhammad Ali becomes the heavyweight champion of the world for the second time when he knocks out 25-year-old champ George Foreman in the eighth round of the “Rumble in the Jungle,” a match in Kinshasa, Zaire. Seven years before, Ali had lost his title when the government accused him of draft-dodging and the boxing commission took away his license. His victory in Zaire made him only the second dethroned champ in history to regain his belt.
The “Rumble in the Jungle” (named by promoter Don King, who’d initially tagged the bout “From the Slave Ship to the Championship!” until Zaire’s president caught wind of the idea and ordered all the posters burned) was Africa’s first heavyweight championship match. The government of the West African republic staged the event—its president, Mobutu Sese Seko, personally paid each of the fighters $5 million simply for showing up—in hopes that it would draw the world’s attention to the country’s enormous beauty and vast reserves of natural resources. Ali agreed. “I wanted to establish a relationship between American blacks and Africans,” he wrote later. “The fight was about racial problems, Vietnam. All of that.” He added: “The Rumble in the Jungle was a fight that made the whole country more conscious.”