Muhammad Ali's legendary Rumble in the Jungle 40 years on

Muhammad Ali (R) lands a lunch on George Foreman Credit: DPA/DPA/Press Association Images

Four decades on and the Rumble in the Jungle is still remembered as one of the most momentous events in sporting history.

The fight sealed the reputation of Muhammad Ali - previously stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War - as a boxing legend.

In 1974, Ali was widely seen as the underdog. His opponent, the much younger George Foreman, later admitted he only agreed to the "charity fight" because be had heard Ali was broke.

What followed was the kind of fairy tale that only happens rarely in competitive sport.

Both players had been offered what was then the staggering sum of $5 million (£3m) to take part in the bout in Kinshasa, the capital of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The build up to the match included a three-day music festival featuring James Brown, Celia Cruz and B.B. King among others.

Ali hyped the match in interviews with the media, coining phrases like: "I'm gonna float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee. George can't hit what his eyes can't see".

George Foreman's punch slips past Ali's left cheek Credit: DPA/DPA/Press Association Images

The match was fought at 4am local time so it could be broadcast to audiences in America.

George Foreman's superior strength and physicality became obvious in the early rounds, but Ali held in and adopted tactics to make his opponent expend more energy.

George Foreman (front) is knocked to the canvas by his compatriot Muhammad Ali Credit: DPA/DPA/Press Association Images

When the pair became locked in a clinch, Ali would mutter taunts into the ear of the reigning world champion.

Foreman later recalled how he had felt deeply unsettled after Ali whispered "That all you got, George?" after take a withering blow to his side.

Ali went on to beat Foreman in the eighth round.

Muhammad Ali stands with his wife Yolanda at a fight in 2010 Credit: REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Today, Ali is 72 and suffering from Parkinson's disease.

But his friends in Louisville, Kentucky still remember Ali as a boisterous kid who promised he would be a boxing champion, and then delivered.

His victory against all odds is the stuff of legends.