The Trials of Muhammad Ali

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trials of muhammad aliI’m a huge boxing fan. I remember as a kid, watching Muhammad Ali lose to Leon Spinks and being devastated. I was yelling at the TV, “How can you lose to Spinks?!”

When you’re a young sports fan, you don’t realize what it means to be an aging athlete.

There’s nothing more enjoyable than reading stories and watching documentaries about boxing. The ‘70s had the best crop of heavyweights ever. That doesn’t mean Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano or Joe Louis were chopped liver; yet many boxing experts call Ali the best heavyweight off all-time. Certainly nobody in the sport was as big as he was. The man was larger than life, always spouting off in a playful way. As fun as he was in interviews, you’d think a documentary like this would be an easy KO.

It starts perfectly, with vintage clips of fights against Sonny Liston (he was a 7 to 1 underdog). You also get talk show host David Susskind grilling Ali harshly, even calling him a “disgrace to his race and country.”


The Trails of Muhammad Ali unfortunately, just deals with his 5 years in which he joins the Nation of Islam, doesn’t fight in Vietnam, and has his biggest fights in the courtroom.

The documentary doesn’t add anything new and all the talking heads were of little interest.

Louis Farrakhan is a racist, and I don’t care what he has to say about anything. His early manager in the ‘60s, Gordon B. Davidson, isn’t all that interesting. It was a kick seeing Ali’s brother (who looks and sounds a bit like Andre the Giant).

The documentary When we were Kings is obviously a lot more entertaining. Even with the documentary touching on Parkinson’s and a few other topics we’re interested in…there just isn’t enough here.

I would’ve rather watched a documentary on his second wife, who is featured in this and tells a great story about getting his autograph when he was Cassius Clay and she was 10-years-old. She ripped it up and handed it back to him.

I’m guessing she may rival Joe Frazier or Ken Norton as his greatest opponent,

This is a documentary that should be shown on PBS, not at the Ken. If the topic is appealing to you, you’ve got a week to catch it.

It gets 2 stars out of 5.


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