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What is Rope-A-Dope?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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Rope-a-dope is a risky boxing strategy famously used by Muhammad Ali against George Foreman in the Heavyweight Championship match held on 30 October 1974, in Kinsasha, Zaire. The match is referred to as the Rumble in the Jungle because of the explosive action between the two great fighters.

Ali was the better technical fighter while Foreman "the bruiser" packed a harder punch. In the first round of the fight Ali scored several technical hits but Foreman remained unfazed. By the second round, Ali changed his strategy, frequently laying against the ropes, allowing Foreman to exhaust himself by throwing repeated punches, mostly to Ali's protective arms. Ali also lay against Foreman frequently, forcing Foreman to hold up his weight while continuing to thrust blows. By round five Foreman was exhausted while Ali had taken every opportunity to land choice blows to Foreman's face and head when the big fighter let down his guard. By round eight Foreman's punches were weak and ineffective and Ali won the match by knockout. After the fight, much controversy erupted and Foreman eventually claimed he had been drugged.

Today rope-a-dope refers to any strategy that involves playing the loser to come out the winner. The rope-a-dope strategy implies the need for sharp technical skills to "take the hits" on the downside, and shrewd timing to break through at the proper moment to claim victory. Political strategists, pundits, politicians, business men and even combat tacticians use the phrase to refer to risky maneuvers that take one from a position of the seeming underdog to one of victor.

Rope-a-dope was adapted to Ropeadope for the name of an independent record label in 1999, founded by Andrew Hurwitz. The label produces jazz, hip-hop, electronica, and hosts an upscale, urban clothing line. As of February 2007 the label has become Ropeadope Digital with all music exclusively released digitally online. Pioneering a new production structure, digital artists at the label maintain rights to their masters, with royalties profit-shared between artist and label. An interesting parallel might be made to the rope-a-dope strategy of the label, embracing the Internet and allowing artists to maintain rights to his or her work, rather than fighting the Internet and leaving artists wanting, as has arguably been the history of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

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Discussion Comments
By anon64104 — On Feb 05, 2010

Ummm "as history tells it..."

Given that the fight is recorded and can still be watched, history has little to do with it. You can watch and make your own decision.

It is quite a fight, so if you like boxing, it's worth finding a copy of this classic battle.

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