The “rope-a-dope” was christened during the famous 1974 boxing bout between then-undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Billed as the Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman entered the bout a 3-to-1 favorite. He was seven years younger than Ali and had knocked out 37 of his previous 40 opponents, including one-sided beatings of Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, who had both defeated Ali. But the underdog had crafted the perfect strategy.
To exhaust Foreman’s strength and stamina Ali repeatedly made his way to the ropes and covered up, allowing the bulkier man to swing relentlessly at his arms and body. In the eighth round, he maneuvered a clearly exhausted Foreman onto the ropes and pulled away, socking him with stinging punches before a solid left hook, right cross combination sent him tumbling to the ground to be counted out by the referee. Ali was the new heavyweight champion and Foreman was at the wrong end of a phrase that lives on in boxing more than 40 years later.
In the same way as Ali tricked Foreman, we’ve all been on the wrong end of a pummeling by something or someone craftier than us. I’ve been the dope. More often than not, I am the dope. But, I like to believe that even the dopiest among us are often waiting on the ropes hoping and believing that, like Ali, one day we’ll be the tricksters.