Facing Ali

This was the fight AFTER Ali should have retired for good. He took repeated shots to the head no fighter should take. I remember. I was begging, “Stop now! Please!” He did not.

Some perspective here. Muhammed Ali was a Black Muslim. Most of the men he fought were nothing like that. The documentary called Facing Ali is a revelation of how this man transcended narrow sectarian divisions. My own favorite image of him is with children, both black and white, playing and sparring with them like a kid.

This movie has nothing to do with that. It’s about the perspective of old men, the chief foes Ali faced in the ring. Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Ron Lyle, Ernie Shavers, Leon Spinks, Henry Cooper, and others.

Some if not many of these were once rumored to detest Ali, notably Frazier and Norton. What comes through in the documentary is their nearly unanimous admiration and gratitude to the greatest prizefighter who ever lived. For his talent, yes, but also for his humanity. For most the shot he gave them at his crown was the breakthrough moment of their lives, and their personal stories are of hardship survived, determination to surmount wasted years, and the opportunity to go up against the most heroic figure in their world.

Even losing, as most did, did not diminish their appreciation. For some it was an opportunity to begin life anew, for others it was an immediate instant of awareness that they had been allowed to become part of a legend.

All — even an accident-crippled Ken Norton — express sorrow for the subsequent physical ills of the great champion. Even Joe Frazier wipes away tears of sorrow.

Youtube is charging to see the whole film. It’s well worth it.

This is an opportunity to see a fraternity of men whose like we will never see again. Seeing them coalesce in thankful and magnanimous love for the major combatant in their lives is moving in the extreme. To a man, they seem to love Muhammed Ali. I do too.

Something to factor into our grievances and resentments about Islam.


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