The Background

As part of the 13th West Africa University Games (WAUG) hosted by the University of Ilorin in 2012, a conference was also organised by the WAUG Forum in which I was a participant. My presentation at the conference on Friday, March 30, 2012 was entitled “Winning with Words: The Semantics of Muhammad Ali’s Verbal Punches” and part of the background I gave is as follows:

Dateline was October 30, 1974. Venue was Kinshasa, Zaire. Two great men were poised to fight. The boxing bout was tagged “Rumble in the Jungle”. There was George Foreman, who had proved his mettle a year earlier in Jamaica when he knocked out the well-known Joe Frazier six times in two rounds before the referee stopped the bout. Joe Frazier was before then the undisputed heavyweight champion.

There was also Muhammad Ali, who was beaten in an earlier fight, dubbed the “Fight of the Century”, on points by Joe Frazier. The encounter this day was between Foreman and Ali. The “African jungle” of Kinshasa was set to be rumbled. Before the day of the fight, the two boxers had spent some time in Kinshasa where they had press conferences. At the press conferences, Ali was funny, witty, poetic, charismatic and smart as opposed to Foreman. Foreman had resolved to teach the loose “Louisville lip”, as Ali was characterised at his early age for was considered his loquaciousness, an unforgettable lesson.

As the fight was about to start, the 60,000 spectators shouted in support of Ali, who had won them to himself. Though Ali got the ‘ballistic bombs’ delivered by Foreman’s powerful punches, he succeeded in giving Foreman his first career knock-out. The strategy he used was what he called “rope-a-dope”.

The Basics

Rope-a-dope is a boxing tactic invented by Muhammad Ali through which a boxer pretends to be trapped against the ropes while goading an opponent to throw energy-sapping and ineffective punches. Muhammad Ali absorbed punches that could blow a rock throughout the eight rounds the fight lasted while using the ropes to support himself until he noticed that his opponent was getting exhausted. That was the time he used all his remaining energy to deliver devastating blows that made Foreman stagger and kiss the canvas. Ali won to the admiration of his large army of supporters.

Now, not only is rope-a-dope useful in boxing, it is a strategy of coping with and overcoming difficult people and situations. In actual fact, dope-a-dope is a method that a person would find useful by draining an attacker of energy and walking away with the opponent left helpless. It is in application synonymous with patience, forbearance, perseverance and generally stooping to conquer.

The Beauty

In our world of today where commonsense is no longer common even among those who appropriate it,  one good way of dealing with annoying people and difficult situations is applying the rope-a-dope method. It didn’t fail Muhammad Ali in the ring; it won’t likely fail you in life.

So, when someone rants and fumes at you, just maintain your calm and let him burn out his energy. You win ultimately without saying a word. Silence is the best answer for a fool. Besides, if you argue much with a fool, people would not know the difference. You don’t bite a dog just because it bites you. Education is patience. Education is perseverance. Education is strategy.

People are frustrated today and it is in one’s own interest to be going one’s way and keeping one’s sanity. Two incidents happened recently that still benumb sense in two different ways.

In Lagos, a careless driver hit another motorist inflicting on his vehicle substantial damage. The man assessed the damage, entered his vehicle and quietly drove off.

In Abuja, a reckless commercial motorcyclist hit the car of a motorist. The woman came out angrily and challenged the motorcyclist. The latter had a knife and stabbed the woman to death. To worsen the situation, he rode off leaving the woman in the pool of her blood. He remains at large.

Well, there is actually no point fighting back in all situations. God fights for the righteous. But if you must fight back, fight smart and rope-a-dope. Fire ultimately burns itself out. The days of sheer brawn are gone. Good brains fight and live to win. So, be patient; be persevering; be educated.

Defeating the enemies of Nigeria requires tact and tactics. Things are difficult, yet, there is ease with every difficulty if we reflect.

Re: Character is everything

Character goes along for someone to stand the test of time. Character shields a determined man from unnecessary attacks and dangers. May our character never be tested in this warring world full of economic turbulence. – Aina Akindele Oyebanji, Ketu, Lagos State