So I was clicking my way through the internet on this beautiful Friday afternoon, as I'm wont to do, and I happened upon this piece, inside of which was this passage:
To Foreman's mind, it wasn't Ali that beat him. It was exhaustion. Something must have been wrong with him, the way he sees it, and he is determined to prove that he is still the greatest heavyweight on earth. In 1975 he traveled to Toronto to challenge five men in one night.
"Wait," I asked. "Did that actually fucking happen?"
Turns out that actually fucking happened! Most people these days think of Foreman as a bald, roundheaded, genial grandpa who makes the dope grill and possibly named all his kids George, or something. But in 1975, Foreman was a 26-year-old boxer marketed as a savage killer with bricks for fists. He was also 40-1; his last fight was six months earlier, when Muhammad Ali knocked him out in the eighth round in Zaire.
The loss broke something in Foreman, hurling him into a deep depression that eventually landed him in Toronto fighting five tomato cans he outweighed by 30-40 pounds back to back in front of jeering fans, with Howard Cosell and—I shit you not—Muhammad Ali calling the event. None of the fights show up on his record. It is an astounding piece of footage.
It starts off as a spectacle, and kind of funny, but quickly devolves into the saddest thing you'll ever see. Ali is the greatest shit-talker of all time, and he spends nearly every single minute trolling Foreman and rooting the sad, scrub fighters on as Foreman looks over their shoulders to lob threats at Ali and a young Don King.
Immediately, you can tell that this isn't a boxing exhibition; George Foreman wears his wounded psyche as a pained mask, and whales away on the smaller challengers, bullying them as the onlookers and Ali bully him in turn, flooding the ring with heckling words, jeers, and thrown bottles. He's trying to punch his way out of his own nightmare.
"He can whoop these five men, but he won't whoop one me!" Ali crowed.
Each fight was a three-round bout. The first seemed to take a dive, but Foreman got in a shoving match with the second that ended up with the two rolling around on the mat, throwing punches at each other. The third bout featured a corner-clearing trainers' brawl, and before the fifth, Foreman was so frustrated from Ali's trolling and the jeering that he actually punched his own stand-in trainer. (His usual trainers refused to show up to the event.) "A carnival," Cosell called it. "A charade."
You can feel the air slowly being sucked out of the room just watching it. When the fifth fight was over, Foreman lifted his hands over his head like a world champion, but was only greeted by jeers. He looked ringside for the man who landed him in Toronto in the first place, but Ali had already moved on.