Rare 1974 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman Onsite Fight Poster - One of Only Four Known Examples

Sold For: $11,850

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 1331

Item Year: 1974

Category: Football/Basketball/Hockey/Boxing/Other Sports

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Exceedingly rare onsite poster from the heavyweight title bout between champion George Frazier and Muhammad Ali, famously known as "The Rumble in the Jungle," held on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire. This is what we believe to be one of only four known examples of this significant fight poster and its survival is directly related to its extraordinary provenance. This poster, along with the other four Ali/Forman onsite fight posters and related stickers in this auction, all originate from the same consignor, a gentleman who was born and raised in Zaire (formerly the Belgium Congo; his family came from Belgium). At the time of the fight our consignor was a chef at the Hotel Inter-Continental Kinshasa, where Foreman resided while training and where Ali was a frequent visitor. Because he was a boxing fan and one of the youngest chefs at the hotel, a member of President Mobutu's public relations staff gave him the posters and stickers as a gift. (As he recalls, since President Mobutu was part owner of the hotel, both he and his public relations team spent a great deal of time at the hotel during the time leading up to the fight. It was at that time that he became friendly with members of Mobutu's staff, who then gave him the posters and stickers as mementoes of the event.) As such, none of the posters has ever been displayed publicly and have remained in his possession since that time. Onsite posters for fights, even those which occur in the United States, tend to be scarce in general, because of their very limited print runs and very local intended use. When a fight is in a distant foreign country such as Zaire, as was the case with "The Rumble in the Jungle," the survival of onsite posters is extremely rare.

In addition to its rarity, the poster is also distinguished by its size. Measuring an impressive 46 x 75 inches (making its survival all the more unlikely), the poster features striking photos of each fighter set against the shape of Zaire. An interesting aspect of this poster is the date change displayed along the top. This fight was originally scheduled for September of that year; however, an injury to Foreman resulted in a one-month postponement. That change is reflected in the fact the original date has been covered by a piece of yellow tape (matching the color of the background), with the new date "30 Octobre" painted in black upon it. Obviously, that was a much more economical alternative to the promoters than issuing new posters. Because Kinshasa was a Belgian colony until 1960, the poster is printed in French, with the headline reading "Championnat Du Monde Des Poids Lourds" (World Heavyweight Championship). Printed along the base of the poster is "Ce Match Du Siecle Est Un Cadeau Du Citoyen President Mobuto Sese Seko Au Peuple Zairois" (Translation: This fight of the century is a gift of the citizen President Mobuto Sese Seko to the Zairean people). The famed "Rumble in the Jungle" was one of the defining moments of Ali's illustrious career. Matched against Foreman, who was coming off a dominating victory over Joe Frazier (one of Foreman's blows actually lifted Frazier off the canvas), Ali was given little chance by many pundits of regaining the heavyweight title. Undaunted by critics and buoyed by the support of the local fans, who constantly chanted "Ali Bomaye!" ("Ali kill him"), Ali shocked the world by registering an eighth-round knockdown of Foreman. His victory came in large part from his use of the famous "Rope-a-Dope," a strategy of letting Foreman tire himself out by pounding on him while he remained covered up on the ropes.

The poster, printed on paper stock, features both vertical and horizontal folds (as issued) and is in extraordinary condition given its age and fragile nature. A few tack holes are evident in the white border areas, with two additional tack holes present along each top corner within the yellow interior. (Our consignor displayed this particular poster on the wall of his home.) There are a few tiny tears at the intersections of the folds, as well as a small vertical tear along the bottom border. A small amount of surface paper residue can be found on top of the yellow tape recording the date change. Despite those minor flaws, the poster otherwise remains in Excellent to Mint condition and is a true condition rarity. On our website we have provided a photograph from 1974 showing how these posters were displayed onsite in Africa. This is a museum-quality piece and one of the few surviving onsite mementos from one of the most famous heavyweight title bouts in history. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $11,850

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