Contenders’ Rumble celebrates the legendary fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) on October 30, 1974. Before 60,000 fans and a 1 billion viewers worldwide, Ali, who had deployed his now famous “rope-a-dope” strategy during the fight, won by knockout in the 8th round.
One of the greatest moments in sports history comes with some little known truths, and these truths became the springboard for the Contenders’ Rumble design. Authentically African by all accounts, the robe was actually the work of a small shop in Hammersmith, West London, designed and woven by a young art history student! The Ali entrance robe took a month to complete and it was that attention to detail that we infused into the Rumble design.
We dissected the original design and recreated all the African weaving patterns while staying true to the original creator’s intent, highlighted by the tight weave of the alternating black and white rectangles which anchor the design on either side seam. Flanked to their left and right is a vertical block of a curving and winding steam that seems to have no particular rhyme when it comes to spacing. These are followed by what is the becomes the most noticeable pattern in the piece: the downward pointing triangles. The stark white triangles woven on a clean black backdrop provided plenty of contrast for onlookers to see from every seat in the house.
Many of the posters promoting the fight were done locally in Zaire and their authenticity is not lost when one looks back at them. Many were hand printed and weathered on vintage paper which gives us a glimpse into the emotion that surrounded one of the classic boxing bouts ever witnessed. On our Rumble design, the patch that dons the left front leg picks-up on some of those core elements and captures that very aesthetic nature so much of a part of Ali’s legend.