By Ed Odeven
While rereading Norman Mailer’s “The Fight” in recent days, it struck me that the talented writer’s narrative soars to great heights in part because of the continuous comparisons about the distinct styles of George Foreman and Muhammad Ali.
In the paperback version of the book that sits in my room, Mailer’s insights on page 200 about the two pugilists, presented in a stream of thoughts as the fight marched on, really captured the essence of this moment in time on Oct. 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire.
“So Ali had to dispose of Foreman in the next few rounds and do it well, a formidable problem,” Mailer wrote. “He was like a great torero after a great faena who must still face the drear potential of a protracted inept and disappointing kill.
“Since no pleasure is greater among athletes than to overtake the style of their opponent, Ali would look to steal Foreman’s last pride. George was an executioner. Ali would do it better. But how do you execute the executioner.”
In the pages that followed, Mailer explains exactly how this came to pass.