One of the strongest memories I have of my father is watching with him, Muhammad Ali defeat Leon Spinks in 1978 to become the first three-time heavyweight champion in boxing. My father wasn’t a fan of Ali, but he didn’t dislike the man either. Rather, Ali’s grace both in and out of the ring captivated my father and many others including my eight year old self. I set out to learn everything I could about this athlete and through my research ended up becoming a big fan of boxing in my teens.
With the passing of this American legend this month, I know that for many younger than myself, Ali isn’t someone they witnessed live. Rather, they have heard only tales from older family members who witnessed Ali’s boxing career. To learn more about this remarkable man’s life, there are a few media sources the library offers.
Michael Mann’s “Ali” focuses on a ten year period in Ali’s life. It features two Academy Award nominated performances from Will Smith as the title character and Jon Voight as broadcaster, Howard Cosell. It’s a good primer for anyone not familiar with Ali’s life.
However, those looking to see the personality that mesmerized so many Americans should look to the Academy Award winning documentary, “When We Were Kings.” The film focuses on the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between Ali and George Foreman held in Zaire. The fight itself is a memorable event but this documentary shows you everything that led up to it and the many colorful characters involved. Many thought Foreman would kill Ali. But, in the end, it was Ali bomaye’ that was being chanted.
Finally, while so much is made of Ali’s life in the ring. His faith and conviction outside the ring are what made him such a memorable and polarizing figure. “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” is a 2013 HBO film that focuses on the Supreme Court decision following Ali’s appeal of his conviction in 1967 for refusing to report for induction into the United States military forces during the Vietnam War. Ali is seen only in news footage. However, his presence looms large as do the personalities that make up the Supreme Court. It’s a fascinating look not just at an important part of Ali’s life, but the inner workings of the Supreme Court and their decision making. Given the court’s current makeup, such a film is educational not only about the memorable Muhammad Ali, but of our judicial system as well.
Jess Edward Turner
South Branch Library