Monthly Archives: June 2019

Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and the Rumble in the Jungle 40 years on

Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle

Muhammad Ali with adoring fans in Zaire before the fight.

Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle

Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle

Back in the day, it was everything you ever wanted in a sporting event: the power and the passion, the agony and the ecstasy, the staggering saga with the twist in the tale and the staggering denouement.

See, it was 40 years ago today, that the boxing world reached its pinnacle of world interest, when the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” took place in Kinshasa, Zaire, in the early hours of the morning, perfectly suited for American prime time television, carried by new-fangled satellites to 100 countries around the world.

In the blue corner, the most beloved if controversial man on the planet, the one-time heavyweight champeen champion of all the world, famous and infamous alike – Muhammad Ali – who had become a Muslim, changed his name, and refused the Vietnam draft, only to be stripped of his titles and be sentenced to jail, then saved on appeal.

In the red corner, the incumbent World Champion, George Foreman, pretty much the hardest hitter that ever lived – legendary for his “anything punch,” because “anything I hits wit’ it, I breaks.” Joe Frazier could have told you about it, but after being knocked down a staggering six times in two rounds before the ref stopped the fight to make Foreman champion, he probably wouldn’t remember.

But Ali is not intimidated.

“George Foreman is nothing but a big mummy” he told the press before the fight. “I’ve officially named him ‘The Mummy.’ He moves like a slow mummy, and there ain’t no mummy gonna whup the great Muhammad Ali.”

Few experts give Muhammad a chance for all that, but the Zairean crowd is with him from the first, as the man who “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee,” dances around the ring in the steamy night.

“Ali bomaye!” they roar again and again. “Ali, kill him!”

But from the second round on, it looks like it’s Muhammad that’s getting killed. For as the crowd groans, Ali leans back on the ropes, his forearms covering his head and much of his torso, as Foreman unleashes punch after punch . . . not realising that it is those very ropes that are taking much of the force. For in a deliberate tactic, as brilliant as it is innovative, Ali is doing “rope-a-dope,” inviting to Foreman to expend all his energy. To encourage him to keep going, Ali keeps taunting his opponent: “Didn’t hurt, George.” “Try again, George, I barely felt that one.” “Hit harder! Show me something, George,” and “That don’t hurt. I thought you were supposed to be bad.”

After seven rounds, both fighters are exhausted and retreat to their corners, but in a moment of inspiration, Ali jumps up and away from trainer Angelo Dundee, to stand on his stool and lead the crowd in the chant!

“Ali . . . bomaye! Ali . . . bomaye!”

Foreman looks up, and groans. Where is this man getting the energy from?

At the beginning of the 8th round, Ali comes out, and after the first few exhausted punches from Foreman, leans in close and says, “is that all you got, George? Is THAT all you got? You done now?”

“Yup,” Foreman told me he replied to Ali, “that’s pretty much it.”

And so it is. Ali unleashes.  After a flurry of blows right on Foreman’s noggin, finally, the denouement, as so evocatively described by the great American writer, Norman Mailer, in his book, The Fight. Tell ’em what happened then, Norm.

“Then a big projectile exactly the size of a fist in a glove drove into the middle of Foreman’s mind, the best punch of the startled night, the blow Ali saved for a career. Foreman’s arms flew out to the side like a man with a parachute jumping out of plane, and in this doubled-over position he tried to wander out the centre of the ring. All the while his eyes were on Ali and he looked up with no anger as if Ali, indeed, was the man he knew best in the world, would see him on his dying days. Vertigo took George Foreman and revolved him. Still bowing from the waist in this uncomprehending position, eyes on Muhammad Ali all the way, he started to tumble and topple and fall even as he did not wish to go down. His mind was held with magnets high as his championship and his body was seeking the ground.”

Foreman fell, and Ali won, a greater legend than ever before.

Forty years on, however, the true twist in the tail.

While Foreman, amazingly, seems all but untroubled by his long years in the ring, and remains as a preacher and flogger of barbecue grills, still one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever interviewed, Ali is the most tragic figure in world sport – a man the rest of us loved to near-death, as we so loved seeing him box, he kept going to the point of being a shambling wreck.

And yet no-one is a bigger fan than Foreman himself.

“Ali transcends boxing,” Foreman said last month. “Muhammad Ali has always been bigger than boxing. I say Ali was the greatest man because there has never been a man so young and so good at what he did, give up so much. I say boxing is too small for Muhammad Ali. He changes the very world. No other boxer could do that.”

True enough. One of the strangest and saddest sagas in sport.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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Young Jets defy age gap to make Asian qualifiers

BRIGHT FUTURES: Young Matildas Hannah Southwell, left, and Kobie Ferguson at Adamstown Oval on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollNEWCASTLE Jets women’s coach Peter McGuinness believes teenagers Hannah Southwell and Kobie Ferguson will not be just making up the numbers when they travel to Vietnam with the Young Matildas next week.

The 15-year-old Jets W-League players were named on Wednesday in Australia’s squad of 23 for the Asian Football Confederation under-19 championship qualifiers in Hanoi between November 5 and 9.

Having already represented Australia’s Mini Matildas at the AFC under-16 women’s championship qualifiers in Malaysia last month, Southwell and Ferguson spent last week in a training camp in Canberra as part of a 26-player Young Matildas squad.

That group was trimmed to 23 for the AFC qualifiers against Hong Kong on Wednesday, Singapore on November 7 and host nation Vietnam on November 9.

‘‘For a couple of 15-year-olds making it into the under-19 national side, it’s a great achievement for them, and I would envisage that both of them will get game time,’’ McGuinness said.

Young Matildas coach Ante Juric included Southwell and Ferguson alongside Mini Matildas teammates Ellie Carpenter, Alex Chidiac and Princess Ibini-Isei.

‘‘We’ve had a number of high-quality training camps in Canberra recently, with the majority of players currently involved in the Westfield W-League,’’ Juric said.

‘‘In addition, I have included a number of the mini-Matildas who recently performed well at the AFC under-16 championship qualifiers in Malaysia.

‘‘We are all looking forward to the challenge of the upcoming three matches with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the AFC under-19 women’s championship next year,’’ Juric said.

‘‘I am very confident that this group of players have the necessary qualities to be successful.’’

Southwell made her senior debut in Newcastle’s 5-1 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers at Marconi Stadium on October 19 as the youngest goalkeeper in W-League history.

She was listed to back up against Brisbane Roar at Magic Park last Saturday but was ruled out in the warm-up due to tight hip flexors and fatigue after last week’s Young Matildas camp.

A central midfielder, Ferguson is yet to play a W-League game, but McGuinness has been impressed with her performance and attitude at training against more experienced players.

‘‘Kobie has got very good feet, a very good passing range and understands the game quite well, and she’ll fit in quite nicely,’’ he said.

‘‘She trains with our group and is doing quite well in and around and against some of the more seasoned players.

‘‘She’s a train-on player, so she’s not registered, but she can be called on if required.’’

The top team from the qualifiers in Hanoi advance to next year’s AFC under-19 women’s championship in Nanjing, China, from August 19 to 30.

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NHRU: Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union boss Phil Payne stands down

BREAK: Phil Payne.NEWCASTLE and Hunter Rugby Union will start next season with a new president and general manager after Phil Payne’s decision not to seek re-election.

Payne told the board this week that he was standing down as president after 14 years at the helm.

The former Hamilton second-rower will also relinquish his position on the NSW Country Rugby Union board.

Payne’s decision follows the sudden resignation of general manager Shelley Youman in September after less than five months in the job.

Her predecessor, Fenton Coull, who retired in April, has been acting in a caretaker role.

The board will advertise the position, which is primarily an administration role, from this weekend.

Payne was one of four board members up for election.

Board members serve two-year terms with half the board up for election each year.

Greg Sellers, Ray Warry and John Tate are expected to stand again.

Nominations for the board, including president, close on Friday. Club delegates will vote on the board positions at the annual general meeting at No.2 Sportsground on November 24.

Payne was elected as president in 2000 after serving as vice-president of the Newcastle Wildfires before their axing from the Sydney competition.

‘‘I have had 14 years in the job and I think it is time to hand over to someone else,’’ Payne said.

‘‘Adding to the decision is that fact I am travelling overseas for three months from January. You can’t be president and be away for a quarter of the season at an important time of the year.

‘‘I have offered to assist in any way.

‘‘At the moment I am acting GM because Fenton is away.

‘‘In terms of the board I will be taking a total break. Same with Country.’’

Payne was ‘‘proud’’ of the growth and improved financial position of the union under his charge.

‘‘We have achieved an enormous amount of things,’’ he said. ‘‘The first Test match in Newcastle, the redevelopment of No.2, the British and Irish Lions visit, six straight Country championships, we have an increase in sponsorship, the introduction of a full-time general manager … all those sorts of things are the positives which I am proud of.’’

The low point of Payne’s term was the board’s four-year battle with Easts over their relegation from Premier Rugby in 2009, eventually resolved in 2013 through court-ordered mediation.

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Three new directors walk onto Real NRL board


NO ballot was required for the Newcastle Rugby League board on Tuesday night after only three nominations were received for the 10-person committee.

Former Cessnock president Kane Bradley, ex-Lakes United president Jason Allen and Newcastle league life member Brad Morgan nominated for the board to join existing directors Trevor Crow, Mal Graham, Anthony Rodwell, Mark Singleton, John Crooks, Mark Hanlon and Charlie Haggett.

Former general manager John Fahey considered nominating for the board but opted out due to work commitments.

Three vacancies were created by the loss of vice-chairman Steve Doran, Doug Gall and Matt Harris.

There has been a casual vacancy since Harris stood down late last year to apply for the chief executive’s position, which he was appointed to.

Asked if he was disappointed to receive the minimum three nominations for the board, Harris said: ‘‘There’s a couple of different ways to look at it. I’ve been very happy with the current board and they’ve obviously embraced the need to move forward and make some change.

‘‘I would have been disappointed if there had been too many changes, obviously, because there was one vacant position and we had another two guys who were not standing again.

‘‘There was always going to be potentially three new faces on the board, which I think is a good number.

‘‘The three guys that will join the board have plenty to bring.’’

The new board of directors will be officially appointed at the annual general meeting on November 18.

Bradley won a premiership with the Goannas in 2003 and later captained the club and served as president.

Allen was a two-try hero in Lakes’ 2006 premiership victory over Nelson Bay and also later became club president.

The centre or fullback earlier played with Western Suburbs and in the lower grades at the Knights.

Morgan has had more than 40 years of involvement in Newcastle Rugby League as a player, coach and junior administrator.

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Darius Boyd deal crucial to Knights’ new crew

GOODNIGHT: Darius Boyd won’t be in Knights livery much longer. DARIUS Boyd is expected to be an ex-Newcastle Knight before the end of the week, sparing him from joining them at pre-season training on Monday and freeing him to link with Brisbane.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley was reluctant to comment yesterday, other than to confirm there have been further negotiations with Boyd’s management and he was hopeful of a resolution ‘‘within coming days’’.

Asked whether Boyd would be required at training on Monday if no release had been granted, Gidley replied: ‘‘We’re working through that.’’

The Test and Queensland representative has appeared certain to part company with Newcastle since a much-reported dispute over a $200,000 shortfall in his salary, widely attributed to a defunct third-party sponsorship.

He has one more year to run on his deal with the Knights but has a contractual option in his favour that entitles him to a release.

After the return of his long-time mentor Wayne Bennett to Brisbane, it has been seemingly inevitable that Boyd would follow him, but his management have been at loggerheads with the Knights for the past two months, seeking a parting payout.

Reaching a settlement with Boyd is crucial for Newcastle because their hopes of retaining and signing other players hinge on the cash his departure would free up.

Experienced Knights forwards Chris Houston and David Fa’alogo remain out of contract and in limbo.

Fa’alogo is on duty with the Samoan side at the Four Nations tournament but Houston’s appearance at training on Monday is likely to depend on whether he has re-signed.

The Knights are also poised to announce the signing of young prop Jack Stockwell from St George Illawarra.

Newcastle’s pre-season preparations will be overseen by English sports science expert Colin Sanctuary, who for the past two years has headed the club’s junior high-performance unit.

Sanctuary will replace Jeremy Hickmans, who has followed Bennett back to Brisbane.

Meanwhile, Bennett has continued his cleanout at the Broncos with front-rowers Martin Kennedy and David Hala released from their existing contracts.

The Broncos announced on Wednesday that Kennedy, who arrived at Red Hill 12 months ago as a big-money recruit, and bench weapon Hala were permitted to seek out new deals with rival clubs.

Kennedy is reportedly eyeing a return to the Sydney Roosters, and is also in English Super League sights, while the Gold Coast Titans are interested in signing Hala.

‘‘Both Martin Kennedy and Dave Hala have been given permission to explore other options through a mutually-agreed release requested by their respective managements,’’ the Broncos said.

The news, which further depletes the Broncos already-thin forward stocks, comes as Brisbane prepare to start their 2015 pre-season training under Bennett next week.

Brisbane have lost representative prop Ben Hannant to North Queensland, while fullbacks Josh Hoffman and Ben Barba may also move on to make room for Boyd.

The Broncos have added former Melbourne Storm player Mitch Garbutt and ex-Wests Tiger James Gavet to their forwards with least another signing expected to beef up the pack. – with AAP

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