Still, when Ali
came back to his corner his men stormed at him as he sat on his stool.
"You got to
"Stay off the
across the ring, told them to shut up. "Don't talk. I know what I'm
doing," he said.
The second and
third rounds were carbon copies of the first exciting round though, as Dick
Sadler pointed out later, very few of the ingredients of scientific boxing were
involved. No countering, no feinting, no moving; simply the hugely terrifying
and unique process of seeing a man slowly drained of his energy and resources
by an opponent swaying on the ropes, giving him—as Angelo Dundee was to say
later—"a lot of nothing."
In the third
round, in the midst of continued tremendous pressure from Foreman, Ali hit him
some concussive shots, staggering him, and suddenly everybody except Foreman
seemed to understand not only the plan but that it was working almost
inevitably. Ali's cornermen looked at him as if they were a trio of Professor
Higginses looking at their Eliza for the first time.
The notion of
fighting Foreman out of a defensive position, blocking and making his opponent
slug and miss to the point of weariness, was an idea Ali had only toyed with
back in his Deer Lake, Pa. training period earlier in the summer. Then in
Africa, spying on the Foreman training sessions, he watched the dogged-ness
with which the champion pursued his sparring partners, cutting the ring on them
and perfecting this practice to such a degree that Ali realized far too great a
percentage of his own strength and resources would have to be devoted to the
simple process of escape. The Deer Lake tactics began to make more sense.
Indeed, the only weakness attributed to Foreman was that he tended to get
flustered and wild if things were not going exactly his way. Perhaps the
surprise of Ali's defensive tactics would have this result. It seemed worth
trying. If it did not work, if the Foreman punches seemed too devastating, Ali
could always (if he survived) go back to the dancing techniques everyone
Later, amidst the
storm of excitement in his corner after the third round, he told Angelo Dundee
that it seemed to be working, that Foreman's punches were acceptable
("They're not that bad") and he told his astonished trainer that he was
going out to continue to let Foreman pound at him.