Peruse through the 20th century’s most iconic sporting moments, and it should come as no surprise boxing has several. Very few rank higher than Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s seminal “Rumble In The Jungle.” Taking placing in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) on October 30, 1974, Leon Gast’s When We Were Kings takes an incredibly pensive look into the anticipation, importance of the fight taking place in Africa and the actual in-ring theatrics (the rope-a-dope!).
More than anything, for people like myself alive for neither the fight or boxing’s heavyweight heyday, the film does a remarkable job at capturing the essence of the time and characters who became icons during it. Ali’s patented candidness is on full display, fully grasping the underdog role in ways only he could. Meanwhile, Foreman’s stoic demeanor is a reminder before the smile and grill became irreplaceable parts of his legacy in older age, “cold-blooded assassin” is what he was originally known by.*
Kings went on to capture the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1996, beating out the likes of Mandela, Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press and more. Relax and take notes, my friends. History literally resides at the fingertips.
* – Seriously, the footage of Foreman essentially toying with Joe Frazier and Ken Norton is almost child’s play. Frazier and Norton, people!