An illustration from TIME's Sept. 23, 1974, fight preview
Illustration for TIME by Robert Handeville
By Lily Rothman
October 30, 2014

When TIME sent Nairobi Bureau Chief Lee Griggs to Kinshasa in 1974 to preview the Oct. 30 boxing match that became known as “The Rumble in the Jungle,” it seemed clear that the winning money was not on the favorite. The bout between reigning champion George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, who had previously lost the title after refusing to be drafted into the military, came with the biggest purse in sports history. Both boxers were guaranteed at least $5 million but — though boxing fans worldwide, and especially in the country then called Zaire, were rooting hard for Ali — it seemed clear that Foreman would be the one going home with the title. He was younger and strong and on a winning streak. He would back Ali into the ropes, where the older boxer’s footwork would do no good. TIME’s sports editor Philip Taubman predicted that the result would be Foreman in six.

When the fight actually went down — 40 years ago Thursday, after a delay of about a month from its originally planned September date — that did not happen. Though Foreman went after Ali just as predicted, the results were far from what had been expected.

Here’s what did happen, as TIME reported in the Nov. 11, 1974, issue:

By giving up on the “floating like a butterfly” that had made his career, Muhammad Ali won the match in the eighth round.

Read TIME’s run-up to the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ here, in the archives: Violent Coronation in Kinshasa

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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