CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

A Real Knockout: The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts

2 minute read

Muhammad Ali - Photo by Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated

On October 30, 1974, the Rumble in the Jungle World Heavyweight Championship pitted the then undefeated boxing champion George Foreman against challenger Muhammad Ali. The match ended with Ali winning by knockout just before the conclusion of the eighth round and is now considered one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th century.

The legendary fight was promoted by Don King, a hugely successful American boxing promoter best known for his work organizing the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila. King convinced both Ali and Foreman to sign contracts stating that they would compete if he could acquire a purse of 5 million dollars. However, King did not have the funds and sought an outside nation to sponsor the event. The President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, requested the contest to be fought in his country, eager for such a high-profile event to spark publicity.

The Rumble in the Jungle boxing contracts are housed in a customized, hard cover portfolio

The Rumble in the Jungle boxing contracts are housed in a customized, hard cover portfolio

The resulting match was fought before an audience of approximately 60,000 and largely thanks to the efforts of boxing promoter and telecommunications expert Henry “Hank” Schwartz, was the first ever telecast from Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Schwartz's valiant efforts were responsible for establishing not only a successful global boxing event but also building an entire telecommunications infrastructure for the country, an act which earned him the position of Minister of Communications of Zaire.

The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts

The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts

The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts pictured here come directly from the private collection of boxing promoter and telecommunications expert Henry "Hank" Schwartz. Not only are the contracts a great memento from the most spectacular sporting event of the 20th century, they are an extraordinary relic connected to the late Muhammad Ali.

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