Parc Ermens, Stade Roi Baudouin, Stade Tata Raphaël and Stade du 20 Mai – these are the different names given to the large sports stadium in the north of Kinshasa. Some 46 years ago, on October 30th 1974, the former heavyweight world champion Muhammad Ali challenged defending champion George Foreman here. A legendary confrontation in the heart of Africa between two incredible boxers. Never before has a fight had such political and symbolic dimension.
In what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), President Mobutu, known for his extravagant personality cult, makes this fight a gift to his people. In the tropical heat of Kinshasa, a surprise awaits the spectators during the night-time fight: Muhammad Ali appears to take refuge in the ropes of the ring. The audience is amazed! Foreman attacks Ali again and again with powerful punches over 7 rounds, while Ali continually stays close to the corners and ropes until Foreman is visibly tired. Finally, in the eighth round, Ali uses his opponent’s exhaustion for several targeted blows to his head, and the champion collapses like a puppet. That’s the knockout.
But the event is more than just a simple boxing match. Even before his arrival, the famous Muhammad Ali is passionately revered and greeted as a hero in the land of his forefathers. Throughout Africa, he is considered an important fighter for African-American rights as well as decolonisation. At the same time, the spectacle organized by Mobutu is to present a strong nation and improve the image of Zaire in the world. And a million dollar business for sports speculators. For these reasons, the fight has become a famous myth today, known throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the comic strip “Chaos debout à Kinshasa” this historical fight and its aura is immortalized through a fictional scenario by Thierry Bellefroid and captivating drawings by Barly Baruti. The volume was published in 2016 by French publisher Glénat.
Bibliographic information on the image contribution:
Comic pages from „Chaos debout à Kinshasa“, © 2016 Glénat BD, Drawings: Barly Baruti, Texts: Thierry Bellefroid / Pictures: 1,4,5,8,11,12,14,18
Posters, © HemDale Leisure Corporation, Lithography: Passatino Printing (USA), from: Archives de la Radio Télé Nationale du Congo (R.D.Congo) / Pictures : 2
Photographs, aus : Archives de la Radio Télé Nationale du Congo (R.D.Congo) / Pictures: 3
Photographs, © Sali, from: Archives de la Radio Télé Nationale du Congo (R.D.Congo) / Pictures: 6,7,9,10,13, 16, 17
Photographs, © Journal Champion d’Afrique, from: Archives de la Radio Télé Nationale du Congo (R.D.Congo) / Pictures: 15,19,20