I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Monday, March 08, 2010

Facing Ali (2009)

I heard someone say, "Give me my flowers while I'm alive."  It's an expression meaning that people should tell others how much they appreciate them while they are still above ground.  In this documentary, ten boxers who faced Muhammad Ali in the ring talk about the experience of going against "the greatest of all time".  Those who know boxing history will be familiar with the names of Ali's past opponents: Earnie Shavers, George Chuvalo, Joe Frazier, Henry Cooper, Ron Lyle, Leon Spinks, Ernie Terrell, Ken Norton, George Foreman and Larry Holmes.   All are now men of a certain age, but one can still see the glint of a fighter in their eyes. Some of them lost against Ali, and a few were victorious. The late Sonny Liston, who fought against Ali in the early 1960s, is shown in archival footage. 

Just as fascinating are the stories the men tell about what happened in their lives after their time in the squared circle.  Most people know how famous Foreman became through the sales of the indoor grills that bear his name.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Terrell, who lives in Chicago, and he was a boxing promoter for a time.  Some of their stories aren't happy.  Chuvalo recounts the tragic deaths of his sons and wife.  Norton walks with a cane, due to a bad car accident he had not long after he retired from the ring.  Spinks alludes to drug problems and fast living that dealt him a bad hand.  All of the men are regular guys who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.  No frills, no fluff.

Not all of the men are in agreement about Ali's conversion to the Muslim faith, nor his stance against the Vietnam War.  But they all wish that Ali could enjoy more of the legendary status that has been bestowed on him.  They point out Ali's battle with Parkinson's disease.  Joe Frazier carried a grudge against Ali for a long time about insults that Ali threw his way before their famous fights.  But now older and reflecting on the past, Frazier expresses a wish that Ali would one day be as well physically as the other men are.  This is a very good documentary, telling another side of Ali's career from the perspective of the opponent in the other corner. 


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