As you know from reading my contributions to this site, I am a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts. What you did not know; however, is that I am also a sucker for a good boxing documentary. Yes, I have watched countless documentaries on boxing’s history, and though I’m not the biggest supporter of the sport in its current form, I have a great respect for its pioneers and their stories. Facing Ali is a movie based on the book by Stephen Brunt of the same name, and is a behind the scenes look into the lives of some of the most significant opponents of Muhammad Ali’s career. These fighters tell their own unique story about how interacting and facing Ali has impacted their lives forever and do so in a way that is sincere and heartfelt.
The movie interviews the different fighters in chronological order of when they fought Ali to tell the story of Muhammad Ali as a person, while giving insight to a different perspective than is normally expressed. The camera work and editing is sharp and the footage of Ali in the 50’s and 60’s was something I haven’t previously had the opportunity to see, and something that I found very interesting. The movie gives the opponents, some forgotten by time (at least in the mainstream), a face and a voice to go along with the legend that is Ali. The interviews are the main focus of the movie and all come off as being extremely honest and even therapeutic for the fighters. Facing Ali was the pinnacle of most of these people’s careers and is what they are remembered for in life, so to see the kind of respect they have for a man who they had to fight was touching and thought provoking. Stories such as the one from George Chuvalo, the Canadian Boxing Champion at the time, who fought Ali in 1966 and 1972, were filled with interesting anecdotes and amazing old video footage while also giving a glimpse into his life and things that he has gone through since his bouts with Ali. Joe Frazier, someone who Ali had bashed in the media as being an “Uncle Tom” and who had engaged in three separate wars with the man, was moved to tears when speaking of Ali in his current state since he has such great respect for him, a sentiment echoed by all of the fighters, something which was put nicely by former opponent and life long admirer, Ron Lyle when he said, “he can’t speak for himself, but we can speak for him.”
I would recommend this movie for someone who has a genuine interest in learning about Ali as a man, and what kind of impact he had on other people. It was sad to see some of his opponents in their current shape who, like Ali, have deteriorated mightily since their hay day in the ring, but they deserve to have their stories told more so than the usual “boxing experts” that you usually see in documentaries. The movie is filled with trademark Ali quotes and useful footage, and showcases a man who was larger than life and arguably the most legendary figure in sports history. Facing Ali does the men involved justice and is a must watch for any boxing fan.
“If you ever dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize!” – Muhammad Ali
Watch the trailer at www.facingalimovie.com/
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