Sports Journalist Harold Bell Commemorates the Rumble in the Jungle 48th Anniversary, Hanging Out With Richard Nixon
This year marks the 48th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle, one of the biggest upsets in all of the sport's history and the first time a major heavyweight fight took place in the country of Zaire, now again known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Harold Bell, the sports journalist and host of "Inside Sports," a show broadcasted in Washington, DC, in the 1970s, happened to befriend Muhammad Ali while he didn't want to fly across an ocean to cover the fight. Ali promised him the first interview after the fight. Bell's life is intertwined with history.
I asked Bell how he came to befriend the heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. He explains that he was working with the United Planning Organization at the direction of Petey Green (a talk show host in Washington, DC. The movie "Talk to Me" is based on his life.) He worked with youth in the community, and one day in 1967, while at Ben's Chili Bowl, he learned that Muhammad Ali was on the Howard University campus and decided to walk down. When the champ asked for someone to show him the city, Harold Bell took his arm and led him down Georgia Avenue.
In 1972 Bell launched "Inside Sports," a talk show on WOOK Radio. He met Muhammad Ali again in Cleveland and hung out at his training camp in the Poconos before the fight. Ali promised Bell the first interview. According to Bell, his words were, "After I knock this sucker out, you will be the first to interview me." Bell explains that he didn't think much of this declaration.
Like many people, Bell speaks about watching the fight on closed-circuit television and seeing Muhammad Ali knock out George Forman. A few nights later, his phone rang, and it was Muhammad Ali inviting Bell to New York for his first interview about the Rumble and the Jungle.
This is just one of many stories about Bell and his brushes with history. The picture above was gifted to him by the Nixon White House via Herb Klein, Director of Communications. This photo went around the globe when President Nixon invited his old friend and golf caddy Harold K. Bell to the White House lunch.
For more information on Harold K. Bell