barely audibly, "He can't dance."
Foreman's man says he can't dance."
incredulity, and then he began to laugh. All around the room his people began
to smile, most of them almost sheepishly, as if high spirits were not
appropriate to what lay ahead.
Ali's physician, came back from watching Foreman's hands being taped. "Man,
is it tense in there," he said. "Not a sound. They got Foreman covered
in towels so you can just see his eyes looking out."
warmed up for the Big Dance," Ali said. "Are we going to dance with
him?" he called out.
long," replied Bundini.
The mental image
of Ali dancing was what everyone carried out onto the field where the great
crowd stood up to see him arrive. Not one person in Kinshasa or the watching
world, except for Ali himself, had the slightest suspicion that in the first
seconds of the fight, indeed at the sound of the opening bell, he would take a
few flat-footed steps toward the center of the ring and then back himself into
a corner—with Foreman, scarcely believing his eyes, coming swiftly in after
For one sickening
moment it looked as if a fix were on, that since the challenger was to succumb
in the first round it would be best if he went quickly and mutely to a corner
so the champion could go to work on him. It was either that or Ali was going
through the odd penitential rite he seems to insist on for each fight, letting
himself suffer the best his opponent has to offer. In either case, the
consequences were appalling to consider. Ali's cornermen rose as one and, in
the shrieks reserved for warning someone walking blindly toward the edge of a
cliff, they urged their man to stop what he was doing and start dancing.
obliging, Ali moved from the corner to the ropes—traditionally a sort of
halfway house to the canvas for the exhausted fighter who hopes perhaps the
referee will take pity on him and stop things. Here was Ali in the same spot,
his feet square to his opponent, leaning far back out over the seats, his eyes
popping wide as if at the temerity of what he was doing, while Foreman stood in
front of him and began to punch—huge heavy blows thrown from down around the
hips, street-fighter style, telegraphed so that Ali was able to slip and block
many of them. Then, with the bell coming up for the end of the round, Ali came
off the ropes. While Foreman's arms were down in punching position Ali hit him
with a series of quick, smart punches in the face, the best of them a right
hand lead that knocked the sweat flying in a halo. The vast crowd roared, and
perhaps there were a few who began to sense that they were not in for a night
of lunacy after all. Angelo Dundee noticed that almost immediately Foreman's
face began to puff up.