First, let me
tell you some truths. Let's go all the way back to Africa, to the ring at Za�re
in October of 1974. Me and Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight championship, with
the whole world watching us. That's where all this mess came to a climax. Then
I'll tell you the rest of it, what went on before and after and how I plan to
get the title back. Man, I really hate not being the champion.
wasn't that I was too strong, like everybody said, but that I was too
confident. I thought I would knock out Ali no matter what he did or anybody
else did. I thought that if he put his gloves up over his face, I could hit him
on the gloves and knock that monkey out. It's funny, but in Africa was the
first time I truly believed I could punch. Forget about all those guys I
knocked out when I was working my way up, or the terrible beating I laid on Joe
Frazier in Jamaica, with six knockdowns in two rounds. Or how easy I knocked
out Ken Norton. Until Africa it all seemed like a sort of magic to me.
I would be in
some real hard fight, and all of a sudden I would look down and my opponent
would be on the floor. I'd say, "Whew, there it is!" But with Ali, I
didn't take him seriously in any way. The man can't hit, just plays a pitty-pat
game. I believed that I could walk in there and load up on him and clean him
out quick. I believed in the punches of George Foreman. No need for the boxing,
no need for the magic.
I got into the
ring and I looked over at Ali with no feeling at all—except that I had to
finish him off in a hurry.
First round. I
just about tore his head off with a punch. But then I thought, "Oh, no,
something's wrong here." I couldn't feel that punch vibrate down through my
legs. There wasn't any magic in it. But still, he was hurt, and I grabbed at
him and got ready to do my thing. And then the crowd all yelled,
"Well, they don't like this, maybe I'm doing wrong." So I stepped back
and jabbed him, instead. Then I understood all of Ali's prefight propaganda. It
was to make him the hometown favorite. You know, like in a pro football game a
guy will catch a touchdown pass in front of the home crowd, and they go crazy,
and he dances in the end zone as long as he wants. But if he catches the same
pass someplace else, it's a different feeling.
It was hard for
me to get myself up. I would go after Ali, and he would run to the ropes and
cover up his chin. I hit him some good body shots, but I was after his head,
and I couldn't figure out why I wasn't reaching him.
The idea of the
ropes around a ring is that they are supposed to be tight up and down the body.
If you lay on the ropes, pretty soon you will have to fight or run. Well, Ali
had his back on the ropes and my toes were right up against his, but his people
had loosened the top rope so that he could lean way back. To hit him in the
head, I had to wing my punches. They didn't have any velocity when they got way
out there. I would hurt Ali with a body punch, and he would go to talking like
he does when he's in real pain. "You got nothing, George.... Show me
What I needed
most right then was the thunder of my corner. They must check with their brains
and do some scheming. But they had gotten spoiled. For a long time all they had
to do was to wind me up and have the road open. Now they had their big money
and they seemed to be thinking, "Well, so what? If this doesn't work out,
he'll still be a top fighter." They told me to keep on moving in, to have
no respect for Ali. They told me I'd get him. Looking at the films later, I
could see no reason why they should have told me that.
By the third
round I was so tired I could barely walk. I'm a good boxer. I can move, jab,
protect myself. I know the ring. Any time those guys wanted to tell me to
change my tactics, they could have. But no. It was "Go get him,
George!" I decided on my own to start moving and jabbing. My punches had
become mean, angry punches, the kind that don't have real force. I was weak and
wild and uncoordinated.