The Rumble in the Jungle: l’eredità del ballerino di Louisville

Scartabellando tra vecchie carte è venuto fuori un poster dell’incontro tra Foreman e Ali, comprato qualche anno fa tra le bancarelle di Porta Portese.

La mente è sempre molto sensibile ai ricordi veicolati da immagini. Per qualche giorno mi è risuonata in testa la frase di Muhammad Ali, spesso ripetutami dal ragazzo di colore che qualche anno fa cercava di insegnarmi la nobile arte: “Fra 100 anni diranno che ero bianco. La stessa cosa che è successa a Gesù”.

Se c’è un momento nella storia in cui politica, questione razziale e l’indubbia bellezza di questo sport si siano inestricabilmente unite, è il 30 ottobre 1974.

Ci sono parole che richiamano nell’immaginario collettivo un particolare momento: “Ali, Boom-a-yay”, Ali uccidilo, così urlavano i 60000 dello Stade du 20 Mai di Kinshasa quel 30 ottobre del 1974. The Rumble in the Jungle: il più grande evento sportivo del ventesimo secolo. Lo scontro tra Muhammad Ali e George Foreman, il ‘belga’ come era stato ribattezzato dal suo avversario appena atterrato nello Zaire.

Era d’altronde chiaro che le simpatie del pubblico dell’ex colonia belga si sarebbero indirizzate verso il ballerino di Louisville e contro il giovane e superfavorito George Foreman. Il ‘negro bianco’ era sceso dall’aereo con un pastore tedesco al guinzaglio – vuole la leggenda che fosse questa la razza usata dalla polizia coloniale belga – e su di lui pesava la bandiera a stelle e strisce sventolata con fierezza alle Olimpiadi del 1968, le stesse del saluto del “Black Power” degli Afro-Americani Tommie Smith e John Carlos.

Non è stato solo un pugile Muhammad Ali, è stato “il pugile”, the greatest come si era autoproclamatato. Aveva tutte le ragioni per farlo il ballerino di Louisville, dotato della potenza del peso massimo unita alla leggerezza ed alla rapidità di un medio: sembrava danzare sul quadrato più che combattere. A ciò si aggiunga un’intelligenza pugilistica fuori dal comune, che ha nella strategia del rope-a-dope, usata contro Foreman a Kinshasa, la sua più fulgida dimostrazione. Ali non avrebbe mai avuto la meglio sul più giovane e potente Foreman se non avesse usato l’astuzia. Così l’idea vincente – perfezionata insieme al suo maestro Angelo Dundee, figlio di emigranti di Roggiano Gravina – fu quella di chiudersi appoggiato alle corde, lasciando scivolare i colpi dello ‘zuccone’ (dope in inglese) Foreman sulle sue braccia e sui suoi guantoni.

All’ottavo round arrivò il colpo di Ali che chiuse l’incontro e non fu solo una vittoria contro l’apparentemente invincibile Foreman, fu qualcosa di più, fu storia. Fu un pugno in faccia soprattutto a quelli che lo avevano tenuto per tre anni lontano dal ring in seguito al suo rifiuto di andare a combattere in Vietnam, perché “i Vietcong non mi hanno mai chiamato negro”. Come affermato dal regista Spike Lee, the Rumble in the Jungle è uno dei passi maggiormente simbolici del lungo cammino dei neri verso l’uguaglianza.

Ali non era solo “il pugile” ed il comunicatore abilissimo, uno dei primi ad utilizzare l’oggi famoso trash talking per alimentare polemiche, attirare attenzione e mettere in crisi gli avversari prima degli incontri. La conversione all’Islam – in seguito alla quale cambiò quello che riteneva il suo nome da schiavo Cassius Clay – il suo attivismo per i diritti civili e, infine, la sua strenua e lunga lotta contro il Parkinson, ne fanno un simbolo planetario che travalica i limiti dello sport e si erge a monumento della modernità.

Spirito europeo nato in Calabria, dottore in diritto pubblico comparato.

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