Tsonga Has Long Hinted at Being a Heavyweight Hit

By Newman, Paul | The Independent (London, England), June 3, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Tsonga Has Long Hinted at Being a Heavyweight Hit


Newman, Paul, The Independent (London, England)


After recent dip Frenchman is back to his belting best (just don't mention his Muhammad Ali resemblance)

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the most genial of characters but the one way you can be sure of trying his patience is to ask him what life has been like as a Muhammad Ali lookalike. However, given that the 26-year-old Frenchman's father actually attended the "Rumble in the Jungle", when Ali beat George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974, the comparisons are inevitable.

Tsonga's father, Didier, was born in Congo and lived in Brazzaville, which sits on the other side of the Congo River from Kinshasa. He watched the most famous fight in history, when Ali regained the heavyweight world championship from Foreman using his "rope-a-dope" tactic of leaning back on the ropes and soaking up his opponent's punches. Didier took photographs of the fight, which his son now cherishes as souvenirs.

Asked whether Ali had ever been an inspiration to him, Jo- Wilfried once said: "Maybe his personality on the court. Maybe I think I have the same tennis as his boxing." What did he feel about the comparisons? "It's just an honour for me to be compared with him. That's all."

Didier met his future wife, Evelyne, after coming to France to study for a chemistry degree in the late Seventies. They are a sporting family. Didier, a science teacher, was a handball international, while Enzo, Jo-Wilfried's younger brother, is a basketball player. The family settled in Le Mans, though Jo- Wilfried now lives in Switzerland.

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