Publicists for heavyweight boxing world title fights have long perfected the art of the hyperbolic preview; this despite the fact that many of these bouts are contested by two superannuated tubs of lard.
But Haile Gebrselassie v Josphat Menjo, over 10k, on New Year’s Eve, and in an exotic location like Luanda, Angola too? It’s the athletics equivalent of the Ali v Foreman fight in 1974, in Kinshasa, then Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo; the match known as the Rumble in the Jungle.
Now, hopefully we’re going to see the Feat on the Streets!
The ever informative Perinvest newsletter, published by my colleague Alfonz Juck reports today that African sources – African Athletics United Facebook and ANGOP news agency – maintain that Haile and Menjo (and Grace Momanyi in the women’s race) will contest the 55th Sylvester Corrida 10k, in Luanda on December 31.
For those unfamiliar with European/Latin terminology, December 31st is Sylvester Saint’s Day, hence the title of a variety of races around the world, notably the São Silvestre in São Paulo, Brazil and the San Silvestre in Madrid, Spain, that night.
I’d never heard of the Angolan race, which seems to have been run over 15k in the past (Momanyi won the women’s race last year), but the organisers have certainly pulled a number on their rivals this year.
I make no apologies for writing Geb’s athletic obituary, following his ‘retirement’ at the New York Marathon last month. Equally, I applaud his comeback, something, like the announcement of retirement, he implied he’d never do. But I suspect that after this run-in with Menjo, he may reconsider retirement.
Because the quiet Kenyan, the distance running ‘find’ of the year is going to prove as formidable an opponent over 10k on the road as a Kenyan Air Force colleague of Menjo’s, Paul Tergat was on the ‘country’.
Tergat, thankfully is currently recovering in hospital, after a near-fatal car crash in Kenya; but I know that he’ll be as intrigued as anyone to see the outcome of the Angolan event.
I certainly am. In anticipation of this dream contest, I refer you to the recent pieces on Geb (link) and Menjo (link) on this site, and sit back and wait for the blue touch paper to be lit, and the start pistol to send them off into the African night.
In closing, I return from one ‘Greatest,’ Geb, to another, Ali. I am indebted to George Plimpton for his claim that the former Cassius Clay should be credited with the shortest poem in history. After addressing students at Harvard, Ali was asked for an impromptu rhyme. According to Plimpton, no mean wordsmith himself, Ali paused for breath, then gave them, “Me? Wheeee!”
And that’s exactly how I feel about Haile v Menjo. Wheeee!