“Ralph Ali, Frazier & Foreman we were 1 guy. A part of me slipped away, ‘The greatest piece,'” George said in a statement on Twitter, praising Muhammad’s skills and transcendence as an athlete.
The pair made history on Oct. 28, 1974 with their legendary fight in Kinsasha, Zaire, labelled as the “Rumble in in the Jungle” for the World Heavyweight boxing title. In what’s widely regarded as one of the greatest sporting moments of the 20th century, the two battled it out for eight rounds before Muhammad knocked out the reigning champ George with one of the most legendary strikes in boxing history, winning back the heavyweight title that had been stripped from him in 1967.
Even though George was younger and stronger at the time, 25-years-old to Muhammad’s 32, his opponent’s strategic “rope a dope” tired out George and allowed the greatest to battle back. According to George “I thought he was just one more knockout victim until, about the seventh round, I hit him hard to the jaw and he held me and whispered in my ear: ‘That all you got, George?’ I realized that this ain’t what I thought it was.” One round later Muhammed won back his title.
George held on to a deep grudge about losing the match until 1981, when talking to a reporter he was finally able to say “I lost” about the match and realized there was no turning back time. Once he was able to let go he said, “After 1981 we became the best of friends. By 1984, we loved each other. I am not closer to anyone else in this life than I am to Muhammad Ali.”
Our thoughts are with Muhammad’s family, friends and fans at this sad time.