Rope a Dope // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

“Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee. I am the greatest — Muhammad Ali!”

The other day, I discovered a boxing rerun on ESPN Classics: “The Rumble in the Jungle”, October 30, 1974. Muhammad Ali faced the formidable heavyweight champion George Foreman. Foreman, younger and stronger was a force to be feared. He had recently clobbered Frazier in the second round.
Ali was looking to regain the title — a feat which had been accomplished only one other time in boxing history. The odds were certainly stacked against him.
Confidence, however, was not something Ali lacked. He was known for his brash self promotion, once stating, “A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I’ve seen the light and I’m crowing!”

For several rounds, it looked as if the light was not going to shine. Foreman seemed to have the upper hand. Ali laid back in the ropes while ol’ George swung away.

Announcer, David Frost, commented that he did not quite understand a fighting style that involves staying still and letting your opponent beat you up!
Then, several rounds into the fight, when it looked like Ali was getting the dickens knocked out of him, he unleashed his attack.

Kablam! Pow! Bap! Whammo! Just like that, it was all over.

In the eighth round, Foreman crumpled and Ali regained the heavyweight boxing title. I marveled at how quickly circumstances can change!

I thought — when faced with a stronger foe, perhaps it pays to “rope-a-dope”, ride out the onslaught, and look for a good opportunity to strike a punch.
A couple of years ago, I attended the National Sports Card Show with my son, Ryan. There were many great athletes present signing autographs — and the greatest guest of honor was Muhammad Ali.

In his 60’s, and palsied with Parkinson’s disease, he shuffled as he walked and struggled to even sign his name. I thought, “Champ, you are fighting your strongest opponent now. Disease has you on the ropes, but you still have the spunk inside you! One day at a time, you’re going to make it!”
Controversial, arrogant, and flamboyant during his boxing career, Ali has, over years endeared himself to the American public. Perhaps, this is due to his positive energy and “nothing is impossible” attitude.

“If Ali says a mosquito can pull a plow, don’t ask how. Hitch him up!”

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