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Muhammad Ali: In His Own Words (DVD Review)

19 Jun, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel


Street 6/30/09
$9.98 DVD
Not rated.

Before becoming addled with Parkinson’s disease, boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s mind and vocal skills were nearly as impressive as his career 56 wins (five losses) and 37 knockouts.

Quite simply, Ali spearheaded what has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing.

A true cultural icon before 24/7 news channels and the Internet cheapened the term, “The Louisville Lip,” as the young Cassius Clay was nicknamed early on, developed a knack for showboating with poems, jokes and oral mandates, including predicting the round in which he would win a fight and proclaiming the need for a quality “white hope.”

In His Own Words puts all on display through a series of nicely remastered black-and-white archival interviews and related footage. The DVD showcases a physically and mentally maturing Ali (who changed his name after converting to Islam in 1964) in the context of current events of the time, including the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the Islamist revolution in Iran (Ali became a Sunni Muslim in 1975).

No actual fight scenes are shown on the 38-minute disc, which should up the doc’s appeal beyond fight buffs. Ali’s legendary title matches, “The Fight of the Century” against undefeated Joe Frazier, “The Rumble in the Jungle” against champion George Foreman and “Thrilla in Manila” (Frazier again), are probably best viewed in their entirety elsewhere.

Noteworthy is that Ali’s fights often were scheduled for 15 rounds — three rounds longer than today’s fights — and that many nearly went the distance. Though he often joked that his handsome face never took a hit, a telling sign throughout the interviews is a progressively sluggish Ali, whose brain unfortunately wasn’t as lucky.

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