The Rumble in the Jungle has been described as “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”.
The 1974 jamboree, a world heavyweight decider between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (the Democratic Republic of the Congo today) was certainly the subject of one of the great sports films — Leon Gast’s When We Were Kings.
Ali won by swaying on the ropes for seven rounds, all-the-while flowing but stationary like ranunculus in a clear chalkstream.
He absorbed Foreman’s primeval power, needling him to expend energy ... “They told me you could punch, George! They told me you could punch as hard as Joe Louis.”
Foreman took the bait and his sting was drawn. In the seventh round, the Cobra struck. Patience, intelligence, and great courage prevailed; brute force was trumped.
Any suggestion that we might be, in terms of Brexit negotiations, beginning a Rumble in the Jungle seventh round might be dismissed by Britain’s ardent separatists but it seems ever more possible to hope that an unlikely but longed-for positive outcome might be possible.
On Wednesday the House of Lords rejected, by more than 100 votes, a plank of Theresa May’s Brexit policy.
It may be too early to suggest the wind is wheeling around but we may be in that becalmed moment before it does.
It is hardly business as usual for the Brextremists and it certainly won’t be next Thursday when a House of Commons motion will further challenge their time-warp nativism.
A cross-party group will force a vote calling for continued membership of the customs union to avert a hard border on this island.
That ambition has growing support across Britain, especially among those whose commercial viability — and their employees’ jobs — depends on cross-border trade.
That motion would, apart from the dark-money conduit Brexit collaborators, the DUP, get a near-unanimous welcome on this island.
Fantasy-challenging intrusions escalated in recent days when Britain’s National Audit Office warned that the UK’s divorce bill could be billions higher than the £35bn-£39bn (€40bn-€44.5bn) put forward by Ms May.
The Whitehall watchdog cautioned that the UK could pay an unexpected £3bn in budget contributions and an additional £2.9bn to the European Development Fund.
That may be just a matter of British housekeeping but yesterday’s report that EU negotiators forcefully rejected the latest British proposals to avert a border must add to that momentum. British plans were subjected to “a systematic and forensic annihilation” this week, The Daily Telegraph, hardly a friend of Europe, reported.
“It was a detailed and forensic rebuttal. It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work,” a source told that newspaper.
The rejection of May’s latest gambit, though not as daft as the suggestion that border security might be managed by flocks of drones flying over South Armagh, was so very firm that her government yesterday restated its commitment to avoid barriers between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.
It may be wishful thinking to conflate these events and imagine all will be well but when Ali went to Kinshasa, no-one, maybe not even himself, thought he might win. Box on.